Brady primed for Ravens after exile in Canada Cornerback learns from missed chances

July 24, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Donny Brady might not make the Ravens roster, but he assures you he has learned his lessons well. As a free agent making his second run at an NFL job, Brady remembers the sour endings all too well.

Last year, as a cornerback out of Wisconsin, he thought he was having a fine training camp with the Cleveland Browns. They cut him just before the regular season. The year before that, his collegiate career ended with a thud. Shortly before Wisconsin played in the Hall of Fame Bowl, Brady was involved in an incident with some friends at an off-campus store that resulted in theft charges. Although the charges against Brady were dropped, he was suspended from his final college game.

Brady spent lots of time thinking about those blown opportunities last year, in Canada, of all places. Shortly after his release from Cleveland, he signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. Over 10 weeks, Brady got his first taste of pro football. He earned about $30,000, played on offense and defense, experienced a playoff game -- against the Baltimore Stallions at Memorial Stadium -- and met some of the more passionate players he has ever known.

"At first, I wasn't too happy about going to Canada. I wasn't sure if I would stick with it," said Brady, 6 feet 2, 195 pounds. "But it brought me back to reality. It showed me what it was to work

hard to stay on top. There were guys who were 35 years old still playing, guys who had had their time in the NFL and had their ups and downs.

"I think I needed that kick in the butt. I made the determination that they were going to keep me here this time."

They are the Ravens, and they Brady are seeing a new Donny Brady the second time around. During the off-season, Brady lifted weights and ran tirelessly, then showed up at rookie minicamp in the best shape of his life. Between minicamp and training camp, he could be found almost daily, working out at the team complex in Owings Mills. His hobbies are Nintendo and lifting weights.

After the first week of training camp, Brady has turned his share of heads. He is beating his fellow defensive backs in sprints. When working with the second group of cornerbacks, he is jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage effectively, covering them consistently, and breaking up passes. There is a purpose in Brady's step that the Ravens' veterans did not see enough of last summer.

"Donny is turning his program all the way around," said veteran safety Bennie Thompson. "Last year, I thought he was terrible. He looked totally lost trying to cover guys. This year, he has done one of the best jobs of all of our corners. He's got a lot of hustle in him."

Added veteran safety Eric Turner: "Donny pushed himself in the off-season, and it shows. No one is running by him. He's had great jams on the line. He's always in a position to make plays. He wants to prove he belongs in the NFL. Right now, he's doing that."

Where he ends up does not matter to Brady. The Ravens worked him at safety during minicamp, and secondary coach Alvin Reynolds said Brady probably will get another look there during training camp. With veteran Antonio Langham at left corner and veteran Issac Booth and second-round pick DeRon Jenkins battling for the other cornerback job, Brady may have to settle primarily for special teams work.

"I'm up for anything they throw at me," Brady said. "Whatever the challenge is, I'm going to handle it. I'm versatile. I'm in a position to help this team any way I can."

Part of Brady's motivation stems from wanting to please his parents back on Long Island. His mother, a health insurance company worker, and his father, a retired accountant, watched him excel over two seasons at Nassau Community College. He then headed to Wisconsin for two years on a scholarship. At the end of his junior year, he made several key plays in the Badgers' Rose Bowl victory over UCLA.

Then came his big mistake as a senior, followed by his first disappointment as a pro.

"That stuff at Wisconsin never should have happened," Brady said. "I disappointed a lot of people, especially myself. Last year, instead of concentrating on my job, I got lackadaisical and gave into the free-spirited way. That's not the way I was brought up."

"I've learned that, if I make a mistake, learn from it and move on. I'm going to take this second chance as far as I can, until I can't go anymore."

#

Ravens roll call

Harold Bishop

Pos.: Tight end

Height: 6-4

Weight: 250

Age: 26

College: Louisiana State

Pro experience: 3

How acquired: Trade, Tampa Bay, 1995

Highlights: With the Browns last season, made three starts in two-tight-end formation. . . . Caught 16 passes for 135 yards in 13 games. . . . Had career-high four receptions for 21 yards in a 29-26 OT win at Cincinnati last October. . . . As rookie for Tampa Bay in 1994, appeared in six games, mostly on special teams.

Personal: Second-team all-Southeastern Conference tight end for LSU. . . . Graduate of Central East High in Tuscaloosa, Ala. . . . Married to Pamela Castille, sister of ex-Bucs and Broncos CB Jeremiah Castille. . . . One son, Harold Jr., 5 months.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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