Several years ago, after playing a youth football game for the Damascus Sports Association Cougars, Damascus residents Brendan Marshall and Zach Bradshaw would often be seen devouring cheeseburgers.
While Bradshaw's postgame meal was usually courtesy of his father, Mike Bradshaw, Marshall's food was typically a reward.
“Every time I threw a touchdown to Zach, which was a lot, his dad bought me one,” Marshall said. “One year, it was so many that he bought me [a gift certificate] to Cheeburger Cheeburger at the end of the season.”
Added Zach Bradshaw: “We made a bunch of plays together. He probably threw me 80 touchdowns in our career playing together. Twenty or 30 of them were in eighth grade.”
Mike Bradshaw said he simply sent them to the concession stand with money, “and it went from there.”
The good friends played together for the Cougars in late elementary school and throughout middle school — winning a state championship in 2008 as eighth graders — but when it came time to choosing a high school, Bradshaw opted to stay home at area public school power Damascus while Marshall opted to travel 15 miles down Route 108 and attend nationally relevant Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Now, four years later, the duo, which also played youth recreational league basketball together, will be reunited on the same college football team. Both have verbally committed, taken their official visit and are expected to officially sign with the University of Virginia on Feb. 6.
“I doubt we ever dreamed of doing [playing together in college],” said Bradshaw, who will likely be a roommate with Marshall when the two move to the Charlottesville campus in August. Damascus graduate Brandon Phelps is already a member of the Cavaliers' program. “I never really thought it was possible. ... We didn't know anyone that was playing in college at the time. It was unheard of.”
Marshall committed to Virginia early last year, and Bradshaw initially committed to Penn State, but changed his mind after the NCAA issued sanctions to the Nittany Lions in July. With Bradshaw's recruitment re-opened, there was little doubt that he would take another look at the Cavaliers.
“It was his decision and we kept in touch,” Marshall said. “But when he told me he committed [to Virginia], I was real excited.”
Both players relish the 2008 state championship they won together with an offense that scored more than 400 points, but Bradshaw points to a moment in sixth grade that he will remember most.
“One play sticks out in my mind and it was a sixth grade playoff game,” he said. “We were down pretty much the whole game, but late in the game we had a chance to win, but had 70 yards to go. I had a 101 degree fever — I woke up right before we had to go to the game — and [Marshall] hit me on a tight end pop pass that I took all the way for the game-winning score.”
Both players earned first team All-Gazette honors last fall and will likely begin their collegiate careers on opposite sides of the ball with Marshall at quarterback and Bradshaw at outside linebacker.
“It is definitely cool that we are going to be playing together again,” Marshall said. “I've known him forever and we played sports together for around 10 years. ... We're going from the same Cougar team to the same college team.”