MOBILE, Ala. — Terry Bradway can walk around the Senior Bowl, and barely move 10 yards without seeing an old friend with a smile on their face and a story to share. That's how it works when you've been in football for 40 years. So when he was on the practice field Thursday morning watching Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett practice, it seemed appropriate that he was having a conversation with a former Pitt quarterback named Dan Marino moments later.
That's the kind of football background Bradway has, and that's part of the reason the Panthers brought him aboard.
The former Jets general manager and longtime personnel executive is helping the Panthers as a part-time consultant this year, after Panthers GM Scott Fitterer sought his advice last fall during his first year in charge.
"He's got such a wealth of experience; he's good for me," Fitterer said. "He's got a lot of great relationships around the league, he's a hard worker. And just a light-hearted guy. He's one of the leaders of our group. I reached out to him on several different situations; he's helped me a lot.
"He's just here to evaluate. He loves football, he doesn't want to be sitting at home semi-retired. He just wants to be close to the game."
He seemingly always has been. It doesn't take long into a conversation with the 66-year-old Bradway to find common ground, because he knows everyone in the business at some level, whether he worked with them or scouted them. If everyone in Hollywood is six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, everyone in the NFL is probably second-and-1 from Bradway.
He got his start as a personnel man in the USFL, working for Carl Peterson and the Philadelphia Stars. (They happened to have a too-short linebacker named Sam Mills playing for them — making the Panthers two degrees from Terry Bradway even before he worked for them. But there are more. Bradway gave Fitterer's old boss John Schneider a job in Kansas City, and Bradway's son Tommy played for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule at Temple. This is how it goes with him.)
After the USFL, Bradway went on to scout for the Giants, before rejoining Peterson with the Chiefs as director of college scouting in 1992. In 2001, he became GM of the Jets, and stayed there as a senior personnel executive after passing the baton to Mike Tannenbaum. He joined the Dolphins in 2015 as a senior scout, and worked five years there before settling into what could have been retirement in 2020.
That kind of background — and crystal-clear memory — gives him plenty of perspective. While in Mobile this week, he interviewed Appalachian State linebacker D'Marco Jackson, and mentioned to him that he once scouted an ASU running back named John Settle, who won a Super Bowl with Washington in the early 90s, six years before Jackson was born.
"He said he was going to have to go look him up on the wall," Bradway said with a laugh.
"When I sit down and talk to scouts, they ask about the best players I've been around," Bradway said. "And I'll mention Tony Gonzalez and Curtis Martin, and I tell stories about how Curtis worked. I don't even know if they know who Curtis Martin is?"
He absolutely knows those Hall of Famers, and offers some background that Fitterer is putting to good use.
Bradway scouted 13 games last fall near his New Jersey home, mostly home games at Maryland, Navy, Temple, and Rutgers. But that gave him in-person access to see Ohio State, Wisconsin, Boston College, and Cincinnati, giving him a chance to see some of the same prospects who are at the Senior Bowl this week. But he also did some film work, including filing a report on Pickett, perhaps this year's top quarterback prospect. Bradway will also be back in Charlotte in a few weeks when they gather for scouting meetings to set the board for this year's draft.
Beyond having a veteran perspective on scouting matters, Bradway's experience as an executive has been helpful to Fitterer as he navigates into his second year on the job.
"He's been great for me, just talking through things and how to deal with different situations in the building," Fitterer said. "Because being a GM is not just a football job. You realize how much of it is about budgeting, how much of it is about problem-solving, and dealing with the other aspects of the building. He's been great, because anyone who's been through that and dealt with that and he can talk you through it, and he can also teach you about carving time out to do football."
Fitterer said one thing Bradway taught him was the importance of communicating throughout the entire operation, encouraging him to have regular meetings with heads of different departments in hopes of having the organization on one page.
"When I talked to Scott about meeting with the directors on a regular basis, it was a way to connect to the entire building," Bradway said. "If you're going to say we're all in this together, you're going to have to show it. It was good and everybody felt like they were involved in it."
Bradway doesn't mind sharing this kind of knowledge, as he admits he wished he'd have known more about it when he took the Jets job. Scouts aren't necessarily programmed for collaboration, but GMs often have to be facilitators first, evaluators second.
"There's not a lot of tangible results when you're a GM some days," Bradway said. "When you're a scout, you watch film, you go back to the hotel room, you write a report, you send it in, and I accomplished something today. When you're a GM, you might say, what did I do today? You probably did a lot, but it's not something you can grab onto, and all these other people are having fun, doing what you used to.
"It's a hell of a challenge. But Scott's a really good man, and he's smart, and he works hard. People on the road, they get reputations, some are good and some are bad, but his has always been really good. I'm just excited, with him and Dan (Morgan, the Panthers' assistant GM), there's a lot of good strong people in that building."
And being around Fitterer and Morgan and a group of much-younger scouts — Bradway mentioned to college scouting director Cole Spencer that he also scouted his father, former NFL running back Tim Spencer — is clearly good for Bradway as well.
He's already a man with a natural store of energy, which is easy to see the way he works the sidelines at practice. Bradway mentioned he was out for a long run on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J., the day Fitterer called to gauge his interest in helping the team, and he's remained fit in a business that's not always conducive to healthy living. And if anything, being around the Senior Bowl this week seems to have recharged him.
Being away from the game during the COVID-isolated 2020 season might not have been the worst time for a break, but now he's up on the balls of his feet, and ready to attack the job again.
"I tell you this, the year I was out, I didn't watch one film, not one player on film the whole year," he said. "And it might sound crazy, but when I started doing it again this past August, I really enjoyed it, and I think I'm better at it. Now that's just me speaking; somebody else would have to judge that. But it felt easier; I felt rejuvenated. It was like taking a sabbatical.
"But I missed the game, missed the people, and I missed being around young people who are working. This game draws you, man; it's like a drug, in a positive way, that you can't get enough of it. I'm 66 now, but I don't feel it. Now, I tell a lot of stories, and they might get tired of it at some point.
"But I really missed it. I interviewed four guys today, and I was fired up to do it."
View practice photos of college prospects during Thursday's practice inside South Alabama's facility at the Senior Bowl.