MANSFIELD — Stan Jefferson wrapped an arm around Chioke Bradley’s shoulder as Mansfield Senior’s football coach cradled the regional championship trophy the Tygers had won moments earlier.
The two men stood just outside the west end zone of Clyde’s Bishop Stadium, reveling in the biggest win in Senior High history as anyone with an iPhone recorded the moment for posterity.
For the district’s top administrator, it was so much more than a photo op.
“I can’t even remember exactly what I said to him at the time,” said Jefferson, Mansfield City Schools superintendent. "But I’m sure I told Chioke how proud I was of him.”
Long before Jefferson took over as superintendent and long before his well-documented 13-year run with the Ohio State football program, Jefferson was a wildly-successful football coach at Mansfield Senior. He piloted the program from 1993 until 2002, compiling a 65-39 record with four conference championships and four playoff appearances along the way.
The Tygers qualified for the postseason for the first time in school history in the fall of 1993, Jefferson’s first season in charge. The superstar on that team was senior defensive back Chioke Bradley, who was on every major college program’s recruiting radar.
“I had the opportunity — and it was my honor — to coach Chioke in football and in track,” said Jefferson, a 2015 inductee into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “You will never find a more coachable kid. He is the epitome of what a student-athlete should be.”
Bradley would end up starting four years at Bowling Green. When a professional football career didn’t materialize, he returned to his hometown. He served on former head coach Jamie Masi’s coaching staff for two seasons before taking over in 2010.
Bradley has a 71-37 record going into Friday’s Division III state semifinal against Aurora. He passed Jefferson on Senior High’s career wins list earlier this season and his five playoff appearances are one more than his mentor.
“I was raised by my mother and my grandparents. My father wasn’t around, so I had to have other people step in and fill that void for me,” Bradley said. “Stan Jefferson came into my life at a young age and he showed me how to be a pretty good athlete and a good person.”
Jefferson also had the opportunity to coach several members of Bradley’s coaching staff, including Bradley’s younger brother, Maurice, Ali Grose and David Phillips.
“It’s amazing how this has come full-circle,” Jefferson said. “I coached a lot of those guys and Chioke has brought back a lot of guys that he has coached over the years. He has created a family atmosphere.”
And it extends beyond the head coach and his assistants.
“I’m a Mansfield kid and I love my city,” Bradley said. “This isn’t just for the team. This is for the entire community.
“Tyger pride is city-wide.”