A former Lion is coming home to lead Missouri Southern's football program.
Atiba Bradley, a Joplin High School graduate, has been named head football coach at Missouri Southern, the school announced Friday morning. He becomes the 14th head football coach in school history, and he's the first MSSU graduate to lead the football program.
"I'm extremely excited and honored for the opportunity to lead this football program," Bradley said in a release. "This is a position that is near and dear to my heart, a coveted position that returns me home and keeps me home for the future.
"I want to build a program that our community can be proud of. We are going to be a tough, physical team that will play with energy, enthusiasm and purpose. Lions Football will be a program represented by young men that people want to support and be associated with. We'll be reaching out to all Lions past and present to help us build a championship program."
Bradley will be formally introduced at a press conference next week. MSSU policy currently limits campus gatherings for non-university personnel to 50 people. Therefore, the press conference will not be open to the public but will be streamed live.
Bradley, who played for the Lions from 2002-05, was selected from a pool of 140 applicants. He comes to Missouri Southern after spending the last two years as defensive coordinator at NCAA Division II McKendree in Lebanon, Illinois.
Bradley's entire coaching career has been in the Midwest. Before McKendree, he was co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at South Dakota (2016-18), co-DC and linebacker coach at Western Illinois (2013-16), defensive coordinator at Quincy (2012), graduate assistant under Gary Pinkel at Missouri (2008-10), assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri Southern (2010-12) under Bart Tatrum and student assistant and grad assistant for the Lions (2006-08).
Kevin Greim, associate vice president for development, was chairman of the search committee. Other committee members were assistant athletics director Cori Reid, faculty athletics representative Dr. Jeff Zimmerman and MSSU football alum Marty Schoenthaler.
"Our search committee was committed from Day 1 to identifying the best possible candidates for interviews and to moving through this process as quickly as possible," Greim said. "To say that we appreciate the commitment of our committee members is a considerable understatement. We would not have been able to visit with and evaluate the caliber of candidates we did without the time, energy and thorough attention they dedicated to this process. We were so pleased with the quality of our candidate pool."
Bradley was a two-time all-MIAA honorable mention pick as a linebacker for the Lions. During his senior season, he was the second-leading tackler with 72 stops (30 solo), including 9.5 for losses and one sack. In his career, Bradley finished with 224 tackles, including 17.5 for a loss of 69 yards, 6.5 sacks for a loss of 52 yards, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception for a return of 37 yards.
Bradley and his wife, Jacquelyn, also a graduate of Missouri Southern, have three children, Briauna, Kiara and Marcus.