I met the elder Brady, who referred to himself jokingly as “the original Tom Brady,” in California, a few days after the whole family returned from the Bahamas. He and his wife of 45 years, Galynn, were in Santa Ana watching a granddaughter play in a softball tournament. They had three daughters, who would all become star athletes, before their son was born. A self-employed estate consultant who had spent seven years in a Catholic seminary before deciding that the priesthood was not for him (the vow of celibacy was a sticking point), the senior Brady still lives in the same house in San Mateo where his son grew up and still attends all of his son’s games. Sometimes after away games, he and Galynn will get to see Tom for a brief few minutes outside the locker room — time enough for only quick hugs and I love yous.
“Tommy was my best friend,” said his father, who started taking his son on golf outings at the age of 3. Tommy played baseball and football at Junípero Serra, an all-boys Catholic high school, and became the starting quarterback his junior year. He led his teams to decent, but not great, seasons. With his father’s help, he sent videotaped highlights to dozens of Division I colleges. A few offered scholarships, including Michigan and the nearby University of California, Berkeley. “When Tommy picked Michigan, I was devastated,” his father told me. “I had to go into counseling.” After a few days, father and son convened in the living room for a tête-à-tête. They held hands. “I was crying like a baby and said, ‘Tommy, this is going to change our relationship,’ ” he recalled. “And he said: ‘Dad, I know. It has to.’ ”
The Bradys attended almost all of their son’s games at Michigan, even when he was not getting onto the field and they could watch him only warm up. Galynn recalled going out to eat at Angelo’s, a popular Ann Arbor breakfast spot that typically had long lines on weekends. “We were waiting outside and, you know, if you’re somebody, they’ll usher you in,” she said. “And I remember Tommy saying, ‘One day, Mom and Dad, I’m going to be a household name.’ ” At that point, Brady was buried among the six quarterbacks on the team’s depth chart. Even as the starting quarterback in his senior year, he was made to split time with a younger blue-chip recruit, Drew Henson.
Brady became close to Greg Harden, a counselor who worked with the university’s athletes. Counseling was hardly the norm in the macho culture of Michigan football, but Brady was devoted to it. Struggle makes the experience worthwhile, Harden told Brady, whether or not you make it in football. “Greg used to say, ‘If it was easy, Tommy, if you weren’t in these tough positions, it wouldn’t be special,’ ” Brady told me. “So when I got into the pros, that’s how I adapted.”