Joey Bradley: Scrambling from Spain to the Czech Republic to Finland during pandemic

Thirty-year-old quarterback Joey Bradley is the newest member of the Kuopio Steelers, the 2020 champions of Finland’s Maple League. He has big shoes to fill replacing quarterback Seth Peters, who led the Steelers to a championship in the Finland’s second division, back to back championship appearances, and finally the 2020 Maple League championship.

Good thing Bradley is no stranger to adversity, especially during 2020. Bradley was playing for the L’ Hospitalet Pioners in Spain when the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the Spanish season. After spending a few months locked down in Spain. Bradley jumped at the chance to play for the Vysocina Gladiators in the Czech Republic. In the makeshift pandemic season, Bradley threw for 30 touchdowns while leading the Gladiators to a perfect 7-0 record.

“I got a message from Martin Kulha of the Gladiators asking if I was interested in being QB/OC for them. Obviously I was. I ended up taking a bus from Barcelona to Prague (27 hours total) because flights were constantly being cancelled.”

Bradley led Vysocina Gladiators to a perfect 7-0 record in Czech Republic before pandemic canceled season Photo: Vysocina Gladiators

Before arriving in Europe, Bradley was overlooked and barely recruited after his high school career. He ended up playing junior college football at Diablo Valley College to prove his ability to college scouts.

“I thought I was a D1 guy, but I wanted to prove myself in games rather than practice. So I chose to go to California for Junior College.”

Bradley won back-to-back championships in Portugal with the Lisboa Devils

His gamble payed off as he led all of junior college football in touchdown passes and yards per game. After a rocky state at the University of North Dakota (NCAA D1 FCS), Bradley transferred to the University of New Haven (NCAA D2). He waited his turn to play and went on to start his senior year. Bradley threw for 2,675 yards and 20 touchdowns while being the teams’ co-captain.

Bradley didn’t wait long to begin his European football career. Just a few months after his senior season he joined the Lisboa Devils in Portugal. Without missing a beat, he led them to back-to-back Portuguese championships. Bradley had an impressive tenure with the Devils, which included 21 consecutive domestic wins, and only one loss.

“With Lisboa I could leave in one month. I took the opportunity besides the contract being extremely  minimal. It turned out to be the best decision of my life.”

After Portugal, Bradley went on the play two seasons for the Seahawks in Gdynia, Poland.  Bradley’s future football goals include continuing to win games and influence the younger generation of players.

“My goals are to just continue to win games, make connections and positively influence the culture of the game outside of North America. Obviously I’d love to win multiple championships in multiple countries, but I’ve also really started to enjoy coaching the younger generation whether it be flag or pads, and just trying to grow the greatest sport in the world.”

Photo: Maciej Czarniak Fotografia

Bradley is already in Kuopio, Finland getting ready to defend the Steelers championship. He knows the expectations of being Kuopio’s quarterback as they get ready for their 2021 season.

“I’m excited to be here for a full offseason, I want get the chemistry going with the guys. Joining a team that won the championship, expectations are high.”

Look for Bradley and the Steelers to be a force in next year’s Finnish Maple League.

PS- Joey is also an avid vlogger, videos of his football experience and travel adventures can be found on YouTube @living for a living

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football