“Best in Class” On and Off the Field: Brad Oates (‘82)

By Ashleigh Wilson February 14, 2023

For Brad Oates (‘82), studying at BYU Law was not only about a legal education, but about learning how to be “best in class” in every aspect of life. Brad’s achievements provide a resounding “yes” to the question of whether a professional athlete can take off the cleats and compete in a law school setting.

In 1976, Brad was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Cardinals after a Hall of Fame career playing offensive tackle for the BYU football team. During his NFL career, he took the competitive drive from the football field into the classroom, working toward his law degree during the offseason. Brad fondly remembers and gives credit to Dean H. Reese Hansen for his success in law school and for pushing him to graduate from BYU Law. Professor Douglas Floyd, who taught Brad’s Civil Procedure class, challenged him to take the skills he has in athletics, such as anticipating before they happen and reacting fast, and applying those skills in his pursuit of a law degree.

LEFT: Brad on the field for BYU. CENTER: Brad's induction to the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame, pictured with LaVell Edwards and Jeffrey R. Holland. RIGHT: Brad with his younger brother, Bart. Bart also played in the NFL for the Giants and the 49ers; he started law school at BYU and graduated from Seton Hall. Brad and Bart played together for the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL.

Brad and his wife, Karen

After graduating cum laude from the Law School and receiving the Professional Responsibility Award from the Utah Bar Association, Brad and his family moved to Texas, where he began his legal career as general counsel for a friend from BYU that had acquired a Texas banking business. Two years later, Brad shifted paths and became the COO of Bluebonnet Bank. In this role, he assisted the U.S. government with failed bank turnarounds, where his expertise helped set record numbers in 50+ complete bank closings and processings during the 2008 recession. This experience and expertise led him to take a seat on the board of CIT Group, one of the top commercial finance banks in the U.S.; and to become the first President of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, where he specialized in predictive analytics. Brad has authored a number of articles on corporate governance, including “What Corporate America Can Learn About Self-Governance From Championship Teams.” In all these professional undertakings, Brad has always strived for achieving “best in class,” a personal standard he developed during his time in the NFL.

Striving for success, however, was not limited to Brad’s academic and professional pursuits. As a proud father of three children, and a grandfather of five grandchildren, Brad considers his home-centered life and family relationships to be his greatest achievements. Despite holding numerous titles throughout his professional life, the one he holds most proudly is “Papa.” Being “best in class,” Brad explains, is not about your personal accomplishments, but about being your best self in reaching out and serving others.

Brad and his grandson, Hunter, visiting with Vai Sikahema

Brad’s legal education at BYU Law, combined with his experience in the NFL and impressive professional career, have greatly influenced how he values wisdom, competitive drive, and intellectual curiosity. BYU Law provided him the perspective and talent to make a difference with NFL teams and players, banking organizations, and turning around troubled businesses. “Law school taught me to think strategically from multiple perspectives,” Brad explained, when discussing the specific law school skills that have helped him achieve professional success. “That legal, analytical thinking has been incredibly helpful in seeing things strategically.” For those pursuing a legal or business career, Brad affirms that BYU Law provides a core foundation that can be leveraged into lifelong learning and service that benefits others.

Brad remains active with the NFL Alumni, the oldest and most well respected retired player organization in professional sports, and the DFW Alliance for Religious Freedom in Texas. He keeps active as a certified scuba diver, black belt in San Soo Kung Fu, and traveling with his family. He has seen six of the seven Wonders of the World and hopes to tackle the last wonder, Machu Picchu, soon. The high standards set for him at BYU Law encouraged Brad to continually strive for “best in class” in every way, creating a successful life based around service to others and continual learning.