"This past fall was the first time in 46 years that I haven't been on a football field," said Bradberry, 57, who retired in 2008 from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Ridgeland as head football coach to join the Mississippi High School Activities Association as an assistant director.
"I've always enjoyed coaching football. It's been a passion of mine a long, long time. It's something I look forward to getting back into."
Thursday afternoon, Tupelo High School gave the Sturgis native an opportunity to return to the sidelines as head coach of the Golden Wave.
Bradberry, who replaced six-year coach Eric Collins, will begin his 35th season, his 23rd as head coach, with a 183-71 career record in stops at St. Andrew's, Greenwood and Clinton. He's also been an assistant at St. Andrew's, Greenwood, Warren Central and East Central Community College.
He played quarterback in high school, at East Mississippi Community College and Delta State, where he was named the Gulf South Conference's Player of the Year in 1973.
Former THS coach Ricky Black, who grew up in Ackerman and was childhood friends with Bradberry, understands the passion coaches have for their sport.
"I think he probably missed the coaching part of it. There's something about working with a team, seeing them mesh, seeing them get better," said Black, who's now the AD and head football coach at Jackson Prep. "David's a good man and a good coach ... that's a good combination."
Bradberry has admired Tupelo's overall athletics program from a distance and called it "the model across the state."
He added, "Tupelo's always been successful in everything they do. The expectations are high here. I don't think you'd want it any other way as a coach.
"I'm looking forward to it."
THS athletics director Danny Porter, who headed up the search with outgoing principal Mac Curlee, said Bradberry was "the kind of person we wanted" to coach the Golden Wave.
"Everybody I talked to, words like class, outstanding person, family man, discipline kept coming up," Porter said. "Not only does he display all of these qualities, along with work ethic, pride and character, when you play for him, that's what he expects from his players."
Bradberry will finish up his duties with the MHSAA next month and come on board to conduct spring practice in April or May.
He's also looking forward to playing in the same division - 1-6A - against powerful South Panola.
"I'll tell you why South Panola wins. Nobody outworks them," he said. "That's the reason they're so successful. They have great athletes, but they develop a lot of those great athletes. It's through hard work. ...
"Tupelo's blessed with a lot of talent. I've seen it. Hopefully, we'll develop those guys and be competitive in November."
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.