JOPLIN, Mo. — Missouri Southern State University announced Friday morning that it has named former Lion and Joplin High School graduate Atiba Bradley as the program’s 14th head football coach in school history.

Bradley played linebacker for the Lions from 2002-05 and becomes the first graduate of Missouri Southern to lead the football program. The Lions newest hire comes to Joplin from NCAA Division II McKendree University where he was the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Bradley served as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at NCAA Division I FCS University of South Dakota from January 2016 through December 2018. From 2013-16, Bradley was co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at NCAA Division I FCS Western Illinois.

“I’m extremely excited and honored to lead this football program,” Bradley said in the school’s official press release. “This is a position that is near and dear to my heart, a coveted position that returns me home and keeps me home for the future.”

As a player at MSSU, Bradley was a two-time All-MIAA honorable mention pick as a linebacker. He also finished his senior season as MSSU’s second-leading tackler with 72 stops (30 solo), including 9.5 for losses and one sack. Bradley was ninth in the MIAA that year in tackles.

“I want to build a program that our community can be proud of,” Bradley said about his new team. “We are going to be a tough, physical team that will play with energy, enthusiasm and purpose. Lions football will be a program represented by young men that people want to support and be associated with. We’ll be reaching out to all Lions past and present to help us build a championship program.”

Bradley will be formally introduced at a press conference next week.