By Steve Pickett

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Bradley Loftis speaks softly, but carries a big racket.  Inside Billy Dade Learning Center in South Dallas, the eighth grader is sporting a Notre Dame sweatshirt, with a spring polo styled pullover underneath.  He’s wearing eyewear, and looks like he could be headed to class on the SMU campus.   In a few years, he may be doing just that.

In ten minutes, Loftis will exchange his campus gear for a uniform that belongs to another school, and another identity he wears better than almost anyone else in the state of Texas.  Loftis is a high school tennis player.  But there’s a twist to his game.  The 15-year old is the best player for Dallas ISD’s Madison High School, although he’s still in middle school, and he’s currently ranked #2 in the state for Class 3A Schools.

“I just love playing tennis,” he says, when asked about his dedication to a sport seldom seen played by kids in his Fair Park area neighborhood.  “A lot of kids like basketball and football.  My dad introduced me to tennis.”

That tennis introduction has led to a career of pride and performance.  Loftis has a 94-mile an hour serve.  He practices for hours daily.  But he is not a part of the traditional tennis system that includes sending young players to expensive private programs in Florida or other places.  Loftis can be found at Kiest Park in South Oak Cliff, where he is part of the junior development program of the Dallas Tennis Association.

Madison Tennis Coach Yolanda Harris says, despite the challenges of having an ill-equipped tennis program (there are only 4 players), Loftis has lifted the heights of a community with his incredible success on the court.

“Throughout the next three years, he can be number one.  He has the opportunity to win state three years in a row,” she says.

Loftis was held back in school for one year when he was in the third grade.  When he becomes a freshman at Madison next year, he’ll be 16, with only three years of eligibility because of his age.

He knows some are fascinated with his success, based on the community he lives in.  When asked, what do you tell people who don’t think high caliber tennis players come from South Dallas, Loftis quietly looks up and says, “I tell them you’re wrong.  I did it.”

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