When I see that Ithaca College senior wide receiver Will Gladney is lighting up the scoreboard and the record book, it pleases me in the here and now. I love that the Bombers are 4-0, I love that Gladney is setting new standards with every game, and I love that his success takes me back in time...
Gladney graduated from Owego Free Academy—as did I—and 40-some years ago, my fellow OFA grads and I couldn’t wait to hear what heroics Bill Bryant was pulling off as a Bomber. After a record-setting career as a wide receiver at Nassau Community College, Bryant would join his brother, Tom, on the Ithaca College roster, and the Bryant brothers would become a big part of legendary coach Jim Butterfield’s budding football legacy. Bill would go on to be among the last players released at the Washington Redskins training camp, an injury cut short his stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he retired a few years ago after a long run as the Ithaca City School District’s Athletic Director. (Tom would also have a stellar career as an educator, coach and A.D.)
There is one big difference in my observations of Bryant and Gladney in that while I looked up to Bill as a role model (he is four years older than me), I look at Will through a different lens, given I went to high school with his grandparents. Indeed, the River of Time flows swiftly…
I caught up to Will after the Bombers 59-20 shellacking of St. Lawrence, and I asked him to remind me how his plans were unfolding after being named First-Team All-State as a senior at OFA. He replied, “My dream was to play D-1, and while I did qualify with my SAT scores, it was a week after National Signing Day.” He added, “I chose to enroll at IC a few days before the signing deadline.”
It was a decision that would work out well for Gladney and for the Bombers. Shortly into his freshman year, head coach Mike Welch announced to the team that he would call it a career after that year, and the program didn’t see any backslides after bringing Dan Swanstrom in as Welch’s replacement.
Two 8-3 seasons and two Liberty League titles later, the Bombers have bigger plans this year. Will told me, “We have played in bowl games since I have been here, but this year we plan to make the NCAAs and make a deep playoff run.”
Gladney was named the Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year in 2018, he was named a pre-season All-American prior to this season, and 2019 campaign is unfolding as a very productive one for the senior co-captain. He has 21 receptions for 315 yards and six touchdowns. His totals continue to carve his name in the record book, as he is already the Bombers’ career leader in touchdowns and total receptions. In fact, Will just passed a big milestone in becoming the first Bomber receiver ever to surpass 200 career catches.
Will makes a conscious effort not to be sidetracked by things like personal records and the fact that the Bombers will take on the Cortland Red Dragons in front of 40,000-plus fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the 2019 Cortaca Jug game. “It will be exciting to play in an atmosphere like that, and we’re looking forward to it,” Gladney offered, “but we won’t let ourselves get too distracted by it because what we are really focused on is making a deep playoff run.” He added, “As co-captains, we work to make it feel more like a family than a team. We feel it on and off the field, and at the end of the day it’s that togetherness that will get us where we want to go.”
When asked about any post-IC plans, Gladney (a Public Communications/Health major) said. “I plan to do whatever it takes to play pro football.” The 6’3” 215-pound Gladney said he has given some thought to coaching someday, or maybe law enforcement, but he added with determination and clarity, “It has long been my dream to score an NFL touchdown.”
The Bombers are home the next two Saturdays, taking on Buffalo State on Oct. 12 and Hobart on Oct. 19. They will also play at home on Nov. 2, when they play host to Union College.