Trials, adversity and injuries have been the words that have really defined Allen Bradford's year - and in some ways, his college career.
Constantly bogged down by rumors of position changes and transferring, Bradford's done what he can to climb the USC depth chart.
With just 42 carries for 123 yards in his Trojan career, Bradford's realized something has to change. And as soon as he returns from an injury to his right side that kept him sidelined for most of 2008, he's unleashing his new approach.
"Once camp starts, I'm going to rebuild myself. That's my approach. It's going to be a whole new me," Bradford said. "I've not had the college career that people probably expected. I wrote my letter for my medical hardship (Thursday), and when I get that year, I'll have two years left.
"With those years, I'm just going to go hard with it."
Bradford's dazzled Trojan fans and coaches on the practice field throughout his career, breaking off huge runs in practice. Despite that success, Bradford never found consistent playing time in the backfield.
So after having his junior season prematurely ended after a torn labrum in his hip, Bradford hit the film room to try and figure things out.
"I sat back and watched myself on film, and I saw times where I could've been going harder on some plays. I could've blocked better," he said. "I'd be moving at half speed, or I wasn't running hard or reading the holes right."
The injury and the rehabilitation process haven't been too tough on Bradford physically. Mentally, though, it's been a grind.
"The hard work is not a big thing for me. I love working. I just figure I'll end up being better after this," he said. "The rough part was just being by myself and being away from the game. Not playing and being away for that long, it messes with your mentality. Living without it was rough."
The solitude helped him make a revelation, though.
"By me sitting out this past year, I realized I love football. Once it's gone, it's gone. It can be taken away from you at any time," he said. "From here on out until the end of my career, I'm going as hard as I can, all out, on every play. Every down, when I'm in, I'll be going all out.
"Every time I touch the field, I'm going 100 miles per hour. I'll go as hard as I can every play because you never know when it's going to be your last."
Bradford said his return to the field will be sooner than later.
He's on track to be on the field during spring football, when he'll take part in individual drills. Bradford will have some work to do to get back into pristine shape. Currently, he's 235 pounds with 13 percent body fat.
But from there, Bradford hopes to be back at 100 percent in June or July.
"Right now, I'm doing good. I start running next month, and already, I'm doing stuff like the agility ladder," Bradford said. "I don't know if I'm ahead of track, but I know I'm on track. I'm on schedule. I feel stronger now. I'm bigger and I'm more flexible. I even feel faster when I'm doing the ladder. My footwork is going really good.
"I can't explain it. I can't wait until I get back."
Bradford will come back to a USC team that will be missing one of his best friends, wide receiver Vidal Hazelton. Hazelton announced he was leaving USC in early December, less than two weeks after Bradford's hip surgery.
"I just talked to Vidal. He's in Miami training and getting ready to head to Cincinnati. It's tough because he was my roommate and close friend. I was tight with him and all of his family," Bradford said. "He's a really close friend, and I'll always stay in touch with him. I feel that he should've stayed. He'd have only had one more year, and then he'd have been out.
"It was a hard decision, but it's business. He had to do what he had to do."
And plenty of people have thought or expected Bradford to tell USC he was ready to leave. But, that's just not him.
The former five-star prospect has heard all the chatter about him leaving Troy or switching to defense.
"People talk about me moving positions or me transferring. That's just a lot of talk. I'm not transferring, and I'm going to stay at running back," Bradford said. "People talk about me transferring, and to me, that's just quitting. I'm not the type of person to run away from anything.
"I think that'll just make me play stronger and prepare better. It'll get me right for the task ahead."
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