Bradley Mickey's remarkable three-year varsity career at Arroyo Grande set a standard of statistical dominance and leadership that will be difficult to match for future Eagles. Mickey never left the field for the Eagles and his performance in the 2014 season earned him recognition as Lee Central Coast Newspapers' All-Area MVP.
There are several ways to try to appreciate what Mickey accomplished in his senior season. First, the statistics: He led the team with 908 rushing yards (averaging an incredible 10.4 yards a carry) and 520 receiving yards on only 28 catches. On defense, he chipped in 69 tackles and six interceptions.
He had 13 rushing touchdowns, three receiving and three on interception returns.
But numbers alone fall woefully short of understanding Mickey's effect on his teammates and opponents. His head coach, Tom Goossen, said it is "impossible" to appreciate what Mickey meant to the team unless you were with the Eagles every day and you listened as much as you watched.
"He brings intensity and passion that permeates to the rest of the team," Goossen said. "He's a unique player and we've had the privilege to coach him.
"He brought an unwillingness to give anything but his best. He refused to accept anything but the best he could be at any particular time."
Goossen marveled at Mickey's "competitive spirit," which helped him "succeed where others might fail."
"One of those kids who is extremely driven to do well," he added.
Mickey praised his parents and coaches for supporting him and giving him an example of hard work to emulate. He approached every day with the idea that someone else could do his job if he didn't work to keep it.
"I just don't want to fail," Mickey said. "Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm thinking, 'Someone else is working hard to take my spot.' Just knowing I have a weakness — I don't want to have any, so I try to get better."
Goossen has watched for three years as Mickey worked in practice and the classroom to develop physically and mentally. Work ethic, and a knack for understanding how football plays work, helped Mickey overcome the fact he is not the most physically talented player in the area.
"He gets out on the field and he gets it," Goossen said. "He understands angles. He can play the game. He plays bigger and faster than his size indicates. It's a testament to his preparation."
Mickey's MVP honor for 2014 could just as easily be a career recognition.
Some more remarkable numbers: As a sophomore, Mickey was primarily a defensive player and had 53 tackles and five interceptions. By his junior year, his role expanded as he learned more and physically matured. He was a force on defense (83 tackles and 10 interceptions), but he also chipped in 1,342 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns.
He finished his career with 205 tackles, 21 interceptions and six defensive touchdowns. On offense, he accumulated 3,484 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns.
For all the games Mickey helped the Eagles win (Arroyo Grande was 29-9 during his prep career), it was the hard-fought loss to Thousand Oaks in the CIF semifinal that Goossen said encapsulated the young player's character.
Mickey helped lead the Eagles back from a 31-14 deficit with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"He showed that kind of leadership his whole career," Goossen said. "I was proud of how we battled. It was a life lesson of an unwillingness to accept defeat. He brought that tenfold for us."
Mickey said he'll never forgot how the Eagles rallied in the loss. But he hopes to make new football memories next year at the collegiate level. Cal Poly, San Diego State and the College of Idaho are showing interest and present different opportunities.
Earlier this week, Mickey announced that he has received a scholarship offer to play at Cal Poly. Mickey said the Mustangs are looking at him as a safety.
But Mickey also understands that recruiting can be reduced to what's tangible, such as a a player's speed and height. He's confident that, as he builds relationships with college head coaches, they'll see what so many in the area came to appreciate.
The young man knows how to play football at a high level.
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