By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Bradyn Oakley remains determined that football will take him places.
So much so that it has him in South Dakota gearing up for a final season of college football.
The former Western Alamance athlete had a distinguished four-year career at Davidson. This next adventure will have him playing for the Northern State Wolves in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
“I didn’t imagine myself playing in the Midwest,” Oakley said Friday while en route to a weekend visit to Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and other upper Midwest outposts. “I love the game and football is part of my DNA. I just had to have it. This is broadening my horizons after staying relatively close to home.”
Oakley, a slot receiver, is a graduate transfer at the Division II school. Even during what he described as a February blizzard and below-zero temperatures on a recruiting trip, it didn’t deter his interest.
He said while playing for Davidson, which is a Division I school in a non-scholarship football league, there was a unique level of commitment. There’s a different vibe at Northern State.
“The entire area just embraces football,” he said. “The community buy-in is amazing.”
Oakley, 22, was bolstered by academic aid and family support while earning a psychology degree at Davidson. Now, he’s on an athletic scholarship as he works toward a master’s degree in sports performance and leadership.
“I view this as a football investment,” he said. “My parents have done so much for me and now I have this scholarship, so it’s more on my own here and lets me show my appreciation for all they’ve done.”
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The son of Jennifer and Chuck Oakley played quarterback for Western Alamance. He had a more versatile role for Davidson as slot receiver with plenty of blocking responsibilities.
A Davidson captain, he excelled as much off the field as on it. Oakley was a three-time member of the Pioneer Football League all-academic team, recipient of Davidson football’s Sandy Carnegie/Bill Gammon Wildcat “WE” Award for classroom and community efforts, winner of Thomas D. Sparrow Award that recognizes the male Wildcat who best embodies the Davidson spirit inside and outside the lines, and a national semifinalist for the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s Campbell Trophy that honors premier scholar-athletes.
“Those are truly team awards,” Oakley said. “It’s about the great people you can surround yourself with at Davidson.”
Oakley said being around other Division I athletes helped show that the work is never finished. During the past spring, when he wasn’t involved with Davidson’s spring football, he spent time in a support role with the Wildcats baseball team.
He liked being close enough to Alamance County where he could support his younger brothers. Zack Oakley is an incoming freshman receiver at Guilford College, and Ethan Oakley is beginning his freshman year at Western Alamance. The oldest of the siblings had a particular interest in his youngest brother’s travel baseball efforts this year.
Then in early June, he embarked on the drive to South Dakota with his mother. He’s continuing to adjust to the area, though he’s intrigued by the outdoors lifestyle in the prairie region.
“You have towns, and then just land,” he said.
There were other options, such as a scholarship offer from Big South Conference member Robert Morris and preferred walk-on opportunities at other Football Championship Subdivision schools. Until he ventured into the transfer portal, he had never heard of Northern State.
When his decision was made to play for the Wolves, he said he sought approval of his parents. He became almost surprised by widespread support from friends and former high school and college coaches.
“I think people were oddly at comfort with it,” he said. “I’m really close with my mother and I was like, ‘Are you sure you’re OK with this?’ It’s an adventure, but it’s in the best way possible. The four years at Davidson were awesome. I can do this for six months.”
Oakley said he’s excited as he learns more about the Northern State offense and works to get up to speed with the schemes. His goal is to become suited to play some sort of professional football.
“They have a great blueprint here,” he said. “I’m going to try to make myself a more well-rounded receiver.”
Northern State, which is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, is coming off a 6-5 season for its third consecutive winning record. The Wolves open the season August 31 at Bemidji State in Minnesota.
“I think it’s the right place to be for me to reach my goals,” Oakley said. “Who knows when me and South Dakota are ever going to cross again?”