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Nathan Bradley is not only the toughest guy in the Billings West orchestra. He’s also one of the toughest guys on the Golden Bears football team.

The 5-foot-10, 245-pound Bradley has been playing the violin for the past 10 years, and currently plays with the Billings Youth Orchestra and the West High Orchestra.

“I get some pretty funny comments about it,” said Bradley. “People don’t think it’s normal for a guy my size to be playing the violin. I just tell them I wasn’t this size when I started playing it in second grade. I just liked it right away and stayed with it … it’s something I really enjoy.”

Another thing Bradley enjoys is knocking heads on the football field, something he’s been doing for the West High varsity since his sophomore year.

A three-year starter on the defensive line and a two-year starter on the offensive line, Bradley draws about the highest praise you can get from 27th-year West coach Paul Klaboe.

“He’s about as tough a kid as we’ve ever had here,” said Klaboe. “And he’s one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had.”

Bradley started at nose guard for the West defense as a sophomore and junior, and moved outside to defensive tackle in the Golden Bears’ three-man front this season.

“I don’t get nearly as many double-teams this year, and being outside I can rush the passer a lot more,” said Bradley. “I like the move a lot. It’s helped me and I think it’s helped our whole defense.”

On offense, Bradley started at the quick (pulling) guard spot last year and moved to the strong guard position this year.

Klaboe said both position moves, as well as Bradley’s ability to be a three-year starter, were made possible by his toughness and work ethic.

“Nathan is such a hard worker, and he’s smart and coachable,” said Klaboe. “He’s a strong, powerful kid. On defense he’s just hard to block, and on offense he just doesn’t miss assignments.

“He’s a great leader on the field, in the locker room and in the weight room. He wants other kids to work as hard as he does and he can’t stand when kids whine and complain. As a coach, when you see that you realize that that kind of leadership is really priceless.”

The Golden Bears (2-2), coming off back-to-back road losses at Bozeman and Butte, will look to get back in the win column today against winless Missoula Hellgate. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.

“I’m excited about the rest of our season,” said Bradley. “We have a lot of great athletes … we just haven’t put it all together as a team yet. That takes a while when you graduated as many starters as we did last year.

“Myself and (fellow captains) Jason Baker and Stewart Harris are keeping the guys going and motivated. I feel like we’re going to get rolling. The coaches have confidence in us and I do, too.”

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Sports editor for the Billings Gazette.