From passing, to rushing, to receiving, to kicking, Arroyo Grande High’s Bradley Mickey excelled at everything he tried on the field for the Eagles this season. That’s why he has been selected as The Tribune’s County Player of the Year for 2015.
To compare Arroyo Grande’s Bradley Mickey to a Swiss Army knife doesn’t seem fair.
Sure, Mickey is a multifaceted football tool — but how many pocket knives do you know that can carve up a defense and uncork a one-handed pick-6?
During the 2015 football season, no player in San Luis Obispo County played more positions at a higher level than the Arroyo Grande senior. Mickey was the leader of an Eagles team that steamrolled county competition on the way to a PAC 5 championship and an 11-2 record.
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He filled up the stat sheet with his unique set of skills, and for his efforts, Mickey has been selected as The Tribune’s County Player of the Year.
A Season To Remember
What makes Mickey’s season numbers even more impressive is the fact that he was able to produce on an Arroyo Grande team filled with talent. In total, eight Arroyo Grande players were selected to The Tribune’s All-County First Team, and Mickey was quick to mention other great talent around the county during the Tribune’s interview with him at Arroyo Grande High School this week.
“Terry Wambolt from Nipomo had an outstanding year,” Mickey said. “Marc Martin (Atascadero) was a great player. Christian Erickson (Paso Robles) ran for a ton of yards. There were a lot of great players, so it’s definitely great to get this award.”
Last season, Mickey notched 10 interceptions, scored 10 touchdowns and racked up 1,342 all purpose yards. But in 2015, he played on another level. Much like Mickey’s trademark running style, Arroyo Grande head coach Tom Goossen started off by bringing him patiently along.
“We saw early on in his development that he would be a very, very good offensive player,” Goossen said, thinking back on Mickey’s five-interception sophomore season, “so we got him involved as a junior because we saw his potential and I think he exceeded even our expectations.”
But it didn’t stop with offense. The only thing on the field more than Mickey was the paint that made up the Arroyo Grande logo at midfield. Here’s a list of positions held by Mickey during the 2015 season: running back, slot back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, punter, kick holder and kick returner. Against Camarillo, he even threw a touchdown pass on a trick play and blocked an extra point.
“Our thinking was that, no matter what position he played, we were going to get production, and this year, I think you saw that,” Goossen said. “We tried to take advantage of his talent level as much as we could without overusing him, especially early on in the year.”
Mickey was tied for the PAC 5 lead with six interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. On one of the interception returns, he only used one hand.
In total, Mickey had 69 tackles, 20 touchdowns (13 rushing, 3 receiving, 3 interception returns and 1 passing) three forced fumbles, and 1,900 all purpose yards — all while carrying a 3.92 GPA.
“I think he is the best in the county,” San Luis Obispo coach Pat Johnston said. “He’s not the biggest or the fastest or the strongest, and doesn’t look physically imposing, but he instinctive and he played so fast.”
Johnston added, “When it comes down to who means the most to his team, it’s Erickson — but Mickey is just the most complete football player.”
Johnston saw Mickey’s speed and instincts first hand.
“He intercepted one on us and took it too the house,” Johnston said. “He stepped in front of a pass and made a play and then made a guy miss, and then you’re like, ‘Wow, he is who I thought he was.’ He’s a really great ballplayer.”
No one was closer to Mickey both on and off the field than Arroyo Grande First-Team All-County quarterback Sawyer May. Off the field, May and Mickey loved to watch film and play video games together. On the field, they combined for the most lethal one-two offensive punch in the county.
“The stuff he is able to do on the field showed in our last game,” May said of Arroyo Grande’s season-ending 40-35 CIF-Southern Section semifinal playoff loss to Thousand Oaks. “It was fourth-and-16 two or three times, and that’s the guy I’m going to because I know somehow he’s going to make a play or get open.”
Mickey finished that game with 185 all purpose yards, including a rushing touchdown, 104 receiving yards, 55 kick return yards and eight solo tackles.
May and Mickey are also teammates on the Arroyo Grande basketball team. And just in case you’re not convinced of his athleticism, in the team’s last win over Dos Pueblos, Mickey led the Eagles with 15 points and eight steals.
It wasn’t always so easy for Mickey.
Sitting in the bleachers of Doug Hitchen Stadium at Arroyo Grande High School, he talked about how, as an 8-year-old just learning to play — before he fell head over heels in love with football — he literally fell head over heels.
“I remember we were doing a scrimmage … I wasn’t looking, and I really didn’t know what to do in football, and I got hit so hard, I did like a flip in the dirt,” Mickey said, cracking a signature side smile.
“I came up and my dad was laughing, and I said, ‘I don’t like this,’ ” Mickey said. “But I figured my way out, and ever since that day, it taught me a lesson to always be the hammer and not the nail.”
Eventually, Mickey would be so excited on game days that his father Larry, a mechanic for San Luis Obispo County, would help him put on his pads an hour and half before the game and shuttle him to the field.
“He’s always there for me — anything I need,” Mickey said of his father. “And whenever I come home, it’s ‘How’s your day? How’s football going?’ Just stuff like that.”
“I have so many people that come to the games. I’m really blessed to have a lot of people who are behind me,” Mickey added.
Mickey showed an ability to play every position at an early age. He played quarterback, running back and linebacker while rising up the youth football ranks.
“I was kind of small, but quick, so it was hard for guys to block me. So, I think that’s why they put me at linebacker,” Mickey said.
Eventually, he teamed up with Arroyo Grande teammate Alex Cecchi.
“During my third year playing football, me and Alex were on the same team, and we were dominating kids,” Mickey said. “We were putting up so many points, scoring three touchdowns a game. It was fun.”
This season, Mickey and Cecchi were selected by PAC 5 coaches as Co-MVPs of the league.
“Just sharing the MVP of the league with Alex, I was excited just to have that honor to share with him,” Mickey said.
With a player who has put up numbers like Mickey’s — and who has been a leader on and off the field and maintained a nearly perfect grade point average — you would think college scholarship offers would be filling his mailbox, right?
Not exactly. But neither Mickey nor Goossen are surprised.
“Years ago, schools were more willing to take risks on kids who did not fall into the normal parameters of what they recruit,” said Goossen, who coached Seth Jacobs (linebacker at Oklahoma State) and Brent VanderVeen (tight end at Oregon State) in recent years.
At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Mickey runs a 4.65 40-yard dash — just outside what top-tier Division I programs look to recruit.
“If a 6’5”, 220-pound receiver who runs a 4.5 fails, you know who’s fault is it? The receiver’s,” Goossen said. “But if you recruit a 5’10”, 180-pound receiver or back who is a 4.6 kind of kid and he fails, now it’s your fault for recruiting him. It becomes difficult to go out on a limb and recruit someone like Brad.”
Goosen adds, “But what they can’t measure it what he excels at.”
Even without elite speed, Mickey was able to grab 21 career interceptions in three seasons with quick, on-field thinking and anticipation that Goossen said was second to none.
At least two schools, Cal Poly and San Diego State, see his potential as a free safety and have made visits, but not official scholarship offers.
“I know the numbers are there. I know my work ethic is there,” Mickey said. “I know when I do go to a school, they are going to be really pleased with how hard I work and just how good of a player I can actually be. I’m excited to prove that wherever I go.”
When looking back at the season, Arroyo Grande’s game against Atascadero stuck out to Goossen. In the rivalry game on the road, Mickey had the game-ending interception, a tackle for a loss against top Atascadero running back Marc Martin, ankle-breaking moves on a screen pass, a big block to spring a run and a punt that pinned the Greyhounds inside their own 20.
But it was the patience and poise Mickey showed on a 41-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, which essentially ended the game that Goossen said defines the type of player that he is.
“On all the big plays on offense, he had a certain patience,” Goossen said. “He was in no hurry unless he had to be. That’s impossible to teach.”
Now that the season is over, Mickey will need to draw on that patience as he waits for a chance to play football at the next level. And anyone who has seen him play agrees that when that opportunity opens up, he will hit the ground running.
Past Tribune County Players of the Year
1980 David Spurr, Atascadero
1981 Carlos Adams, Atascadero
1982 Joe Lortie, Atascadero
Blaise Smith, Atascadero
1983 Jim Ramos, Morro Bay
1984 Marty Gonzales, Templeton
1985 Adrian Cooks, Atascadero
1986 David Hurst, Atascadero
1987 Jamie Martin, Arroyo Grande
1988 Rob Kerns, Atascadero
1989 Scott McClain, Atascadero
1990 Clemente Sainten, Arroyo Grande
1991 Steve Hixson, Atascadero
1992 Nate Ecklund, San Luis Obispo
1993 Jasch Janowicz, Atascadero
1994 Dan Neff Arroyo, Grande
1995 Dan Loney, Atascadero
Jeff Spiller, Atascadero
1996 Lucas Smith, Arroyo Grande
1997 Drew Ecklund, San Luis Obispo
1998 Brett Collins, Paso Robles
1999 Scott Dodge, San Luis Obispo
2000 Jason Holmes, Paso Robles
2001 Scott Garrison, San Luis Obispo
2002 Paul Jordan, San Luis Obispo
2003 Dane Hodgson, San Luis Obispo
2004 Phil Garza, San Luis Obispo
2005 Jeb Heavenrich, Coast Union
Stuart Sheldon, Paso Robles
2006 Michael Reynoso, Atascadero
2007 Logan Budd, Morro Bay
2008 Nick Tenhaeff, Atascadero
2009 Eric Penningroth, Nipomo
2010 Elias Stokes, Paso Robles
2011 Seth Jacobs, Arroyo Grande
Garrett Owens, Arroyo Grande
2012 Tyler Baty, Mission Prep
2013 Patrick Laird, Mission Prep
2014 Bailey Gaither, Paso Robles