Friends mourn former Nease football player who died Friday

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Charleston Southern University announced Friday, March 19, that freshman football player Joe Bradshaw had passed away in the early morning hours. He was a 2020 graduate of Nease High School.

According to a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses, he died unexpectedly of natural causes.

Bradshaw, known as Jo Jo to friends and family, was a wide receiver at Charleston Southern where he was a preferred walk-on. He was majoring in computer engineering.

At Nease, he played football and basketball and ran track. He was honored as the 2020 St. Johns County Student Athlete of the Year.

Bradshaw’s senior year coach, Collin Drafts, spoke with him by telephone a few days before he passed away. Aside from Panthers football, the two had something else in common: Drafts himself is an alumnus of Charleston Southern, where he is a school Hall of Famer.

Bradshaw told him how he had broken his wrist and was not able to play football; the university is playing a spring season due to the impact of COVID-19.

“He’d just had surgery,” Drafts said. “He was going to be fine and bounce back and come back in the fall. We chatted for 20 to 25 minutes. I wished him the best, and that was the last time we spoke.”

Drafts said Bradshaw was the kind of person whose personality caused others to gravitate toward him.

“He was always smiling,” Drafts said. “Just a positive individual.”

He said he’s spoken with a lot of Bradshaw’s former teammates since hearing the news.

“They’re just heart-broken and shaken up over the whole thing,” Drafts said. “Having a peer and a really good friend like that pass away – it’s been extremely tough on them.”

Bradshaw and his family moved to St. Johns County from Kansas when he was a sophomore, joining the Panthers football team that year.

His coach for that and his junior year, Tim Krause, called him a stand-out and “an incredibly hard worker.”

He cited Bradshaw’s effort in the weight room, in track, in football and as a student.

“He was just really highly respected by so many people,” Krause said.

He said he was shocked upon learning that Bradshaw had passed away.

“I’m just really saddened,” he said.

This has been a difficult year for Nease and its alumni. Early last month, another former football player, Michael Vaughn, 19, died after apparently falling overboard from a 30-foot commercial fishing vessel near the Buckman Bridge.

A celebration of life event is planned for Bradshaw. It will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 28, at the Nease stadium.

“We’re going to honor him and try to keep his memory alive as best we can,” said Drafts, “because he deserves it. He was just a great young man.”

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