Danny Bradley was rising in the ranks of the NFL when rumors began to swirl that he was the father of a young son, a toddler, to be exact.
Then playing for the Los Angeles Rams, Danny decided to risk everything — his new family, his professional football career, and his shot at fame — to get the truth.
When he found out he was indeed the boy’s father, Danny set out on a quest and overcame tough obstacles to be an active part of his son’s life.
Now over 20 years later, Danny and his son Mark Bradley, also a former NFL player, have co-authored a book, “1nsepara6le-Faith, Family, Fatherhood,” chronicling their inspiring father-son bond.
ESSENCE.com spoke with the Danny and Mark about their reunion, and what other fathers can take away from the book.
ESSENCE: ‘1nsepera6le’ talks about your struggle to build a relationship with your son. Why was it so difficult?
DANNY BRADLEY: It’s a love story about a father in pursuit of a relationship with his son. I would not allow anyone or any career to come between us because I so desperately wanted to be the father that [Mark] never had. It took 25 years because his mother would not allow me free access. In the end of the book, his mother gives a full disclosure about why she did the things she did. [She talks about] the level of jealousy and envy that she carried for many years.
ESSENCE: Mark, what was it like for you growing up?
MARK BRADLEY: Early on, life was good for me. I had a birth certificate dad who I thought was my father. Growing up wasn’t challenging for me because he was there. When the paternity test my real father initiated took place, that’s when my mom kinda explained that the guy we just took the blood test with was my dad.
From that point on, all I heard were negative things about my father. It was tough to deal with because he was a high-profile guy. I grew up with a bad taste in my mouth about my biological father because of what I heard. But the most incredible thing that my dad did was love me, and my family, through it.
ESSENCE: Why did you two decide to write the book?
DANNY BRADLEY: We decided to tell the story after the Orange Bowl game in 2005 when USA Today started to discover all of these unique things about my relationship with my son. We were the first father-son, agent-player duo in NFL history. We had been contemplating telling the story because it had a really great faith-based theme. We knew that this fatherless issue was a huge one and we decided that we would tell our story to shed some positive light on dads.
ESSENCE: Mark, What type of advice would you give young men who grew up without a dad?
MARK BRADLEY: They need to talk about the issues and get the pressure off of them. If they never talk about it you’ll never get the issues resolved. If we don’t talk about the issues, how can we ever overcome them? That’s why we continue to have these generational curses. So I’d tell young men or young women to find somebody, talk about the issues, and seek help.
ESSENCE: What do you want people to take away from the book?
DANNY BRADLEY: We’re trying to petition to fathers in this story that despite the obstacles, don’t you let anything separate you from your children. Men should make every sacrifice they can in order to be a responsible dad to their children.
Also, remember it’s going to take something bigger than you, something deeper than you. It’s going to take the All Mighty hand of God to see it through. Whether you’re in the house with your kids, divorced from their mom, or were never married, you can still be responsible parents. And as parents, you have to unite and put the kids first.
“1nsepara6le” is available at inseparable16.com and amazon.com.