An exceptional kid
Spotting the biggest Cavalier fan was easy this basketball season because he could be found at center court throwing the game ball to officials.
Bradley "Soul Man" Guffey is the No.1 East Rutherford High School Cavalier fan and an exceptional kid. Bradley, 16, gives inspiration to everyone around him and supports his Cavaliers during home basketball games.
Bradley was born premature and has cerebral palsy. According to his mother Kelly Guffey, he weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces when he was born. He is also legally blind and in a wheelchair. But his situation hasn't stopped him from making the most out of life.
"He's made a lot of progress. They actually told us when he was born that he would be in a hospital bed and be a vegetable," Kelly said. "But he's nowhere near what they said he would be."
Instead Bradley is full of energy and a social butterfly at school. He has been at East Rutherford for two years and has taken several classes including chorus, Spanish, foods, math and physical education.
"He's got a little more independence now that he is at the high school level and he does go from class to class. Bradley is social and likes to be around so many people," Tammy Arrowood, exceptional children's (EC) teacher said. "He has people fighting over who gets to sit with him at lunch."
Although Bradley doesn't see very well, his teachers say he has amazing hearing and recognizes people by the sound of their voice and touch.
"He seems to be very happy all the time and he's very aware of what's going on," Robert Boykins, assistant EC teacher, said. "When I see him sometimes in the morning, I'll walk up to him and grab the back of his chair and I'll shake it a couple of times. He always knows it's me. He knows it every time."
"He has lots of friends. You can speak to him and the next day you can come back and he will remember your name," Lori Downey, assistant EC teacher, said. "He's supposed to be using his arms but everybody wants to cater to him and push him all the time. He's a true joy to be around."
Bradley spends most of his day with David Milam, who is the East Rutherford athletic trainer and also works with exceptional students.
"Last year I only had Bradley one period but this year I spend all day with him because we clicked. They decided to assign me to Bradley because we are like two peas in a pod," Milam said. "At first I thought working with him all the time would be pushing me away from everything else, but after I got with him I wouldn't have it any other way."
Milam takes Bradley to his classes, feeds him lunch and spends second period working on stretches and exercises to help him with mobility. Milam and Bradley also love listening to music.
Bradley was given the nickname "Soul Man" because he fell in love with the song during chorus. Milam has been calling him Bradley "Soul Man" Guffey since then.
"He absolutely loves music. During fourth period we always have to stop by the band room because the band is playing. He says 'Mr. Milam where's the music?' and we've got to stop and hear the music," Milam said. "He's just phenomenal and it's changed me as a person to work with him."
Bradley on the court
It was Milam that discovered Bradley's love for sports. During football season, Milam encouraged Bradley to come to some home games. Bradley loved going to support his Cavaliers and loved hearing the announcer's voice. So when basketball season came around, Milam suggested he come to some of those home games as well.
Bradley's father Scott Guffey began bringing him to some of the games and that's where Bradley heard the voice of Derrick Smith for the first time. Smith is an assistant basketball coach for East Rutherford and announces the games. Bradley fell in love with Smith's voice and began asking Milam if Smith could call out his name.
"I had no idea who Bradley was a year or so ago," Smith said. "David Milam told me one day 'Derrick there is a kid who just has a fit about you announcing the game and he really wants to meet you.' I didn't think much about it at the time.
Smith said after many months of hearing about Bradley, he finally got to meet him in person. Since that night, Smith and Bradley have had a special bond.
"Robert Boykins came over to me and told me that Bradley was there and I told him to come over and say hello," Smith said. "When he didn't come at halftime I got up and walked over by the stage and said 'Where is this kid you guys are talking about?' And they said he's around the corner.
"I went around the corner and I'm looking and I didn't see anybody except a guy standing there with a kid in the wheelchair. Milam said that was him and all I could do was say 'wow!"
Smith made his way over to Bradley to say hello and it was a moment he will never forget.
"When I said hello he started jumping up and down. So I bent down and was talking to him and his dad said 'He can't see you, he's blind' and I just cried," Smith said. "Then his dad started crying and said 'You don't know how long he's waited for this.' I can't believe that someone would think I'm that special."
After meeting Bradley, Smith and Milam decided to make him a part of the game. So, to Bradley's delight, they gave him the job of throwing out the ball. The two discussed it with Scott who agreed it would be a dream come true for his son.
"I've always wanted him to do anything that he can. I don't want him to be excluded from anything," Scott said. "So if he can be a part of the ball team just by throwing out the ball, that's what I want to see happen for him."
Bradley knows his role and takes his job of throwing the ball to the officials very seriously. After the National Anthem and announcing of the teams, Smith turns everyone's attention to Bradley, the cheerleaders begin his special cheer and everyone gives him a standing ovation. Then Smith does a countdown and Bradley does his job.
"There's nothing like it. It's great and he feels like he's a part of it," Scott said. "It's hard to put into words how I feel, it gives us (his family) all a good feeling seeing him participating as much as he can."
Bradley Guffey: The No.1 Cavalier fan
Besides taking his job of throwing the ball out very seriously, Bradley also loves the Cavalier athletes. He knows all of their numbers and says one of his favorite players is Travis Waldrup-Rodriguez.
"He kind of brings the East Rutherford community together at the games. It's also a moment for the crowd to get excited before the games," Waldrup-Rodriguez said. "Sometimes when we're playing teams that aren't as high in competition, the fans aren't really into it. But when Bradley throws out the ball, they make everybody clap and stand up and it gets the crowd into it. It gets us stirred up and it gets us going."
His other favorite player is Devonte Boykins. Bradley has often said that he wants to be a point guard and wear No.12, which is Devonte's number.
"He's nice and I go up and talk to him a lot and shake his hand. I let him know I'm beside him. He's always excited too that I'm there beside him so it makes me feel good," Devonte said. "He brings a lot of joy and excitement and he gets the crowd going. He gives us a little spark at the beginning of the game."
Brad LeVine, head coach of the boys' basketball team, said that having Bradley be a part of the Cavalier basketball program is a win-win situation. He said it's good for Bradley and it's a great thing for his team.
"I know how much Bradley enjoys it. He can go through and tell you every player and every number and what they do during the game," LeVine said. "It's kind of a family thing where you've got one that loves to do it and one that loves to have him. We're real tickled that he gets the opportunity to come to our games and be a part of our program."
According to Sarah McKinney, Cavalier cheerleading coach, another great thing about Bradley is the way he can even bring rival teams together, even if it's just for a few moments.
"One of the first nights, it seems like we were playing Shelby, and Bradley came on the court. To see all the Shelby fans stand up... we couldn't have brought anything else out that Shelby would have stood up with us for other than the American flag," McKinney said. "But everybody cheered for Bradley."
His school spirit rubs off on others and everyone that has worked with him or met him agrees that he is an important of the Cavalier family.
"He's somebody who brightens up no matter how bad the day is. He's just an extremely positive person who makes you feel good being around him," East Rutherford Principal Brad Teague said. "He is a part of the fabric of who we are at East. There's nobody in the building with more school spirit than him."
Bradley is truly an exceptional Cavalier. And although the teams won't play anymore home games this year, Bradley said he has been practicing his throwing skills so he will be ready next season.