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tom brady

When second-year quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, it ranked among the all-time upsets in NFL history. However, it was hardly a case of beginner's luck. The 24-year-old had been preparing his whole life for this moment. That's why, when instructed by New England coach Bill Belichick to go for the win with 81 seconds left in regulation, Tom was quite literally ready, willing, and able. This is his story ...

Tom Brady was born on August 3, 1977 in San Mateo, California, an affluent city of more than 90,000 residents located 30 minutes south of San Francisco. His parents, Tom Sr. and Galynn, were big sports fans, and raised their four children to share their passion. Tom's three older sisters Maureen, Julie, and Nancy were all athletic. He followed in their footsteps.

Tom was crazy about the 49ers. Over the years, his parents took him to many games at Candlestick Park. One of his earliest childhood memories, in fact, was going to the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the Niners and Dallas Cowboys. The 3-year-old cried for the entire first half because his mom and dad refused to buy him an oversized foam "#1" hand.

In the second half, as the drama increased and the energy began to build, Tom started paying attention to the action on the field. He did not understand everything that was happening, but he knew his favorite player, Joe Montana, was up to something special. When Montana found Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone to pull off an incredible comeback, the stadium exploded. That play sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl, and permanently shifted the balance of power in pro football. It also got Tom thinking it would be pretty cool to be a pro quarterback.

The early days of Tom's sports career did not hold much promise of attaining such a lofty goal. He was not particularly big or strong or coordinated, and was undistinguished even among the other boys on his block. What he did have was a competitive nature and an innate understanding of how to improve.

Tom would find the fastest kid around and challenge him to a footrace. Not gifted with much natural speed, he was blown away time and again. Yet he never gave up, analyzing his performance after each loss and thinking of things he could do to get better. Finally, he began beating the other boys. Looking back, he remembers feeling like the tortoise who triumphed over the hare.

This blend of intelligence and a never-say-die attitude served Tom well in youth sports. He flourished at positions where these qualities mattered most, most notably as a baseball catcher. He could hit, run, throw, and handle pitchers as well as anyone around. Though a football career still occupied his thoughts, he did not play in an organized league until his freshman year at Junipero Serra High School, an all-boys Catholic school in San Mateo that produced superstars Lynn Swann and Barry Bonds.

Tom made the JV as a backup quarterback, then ascended to the first-string role after an injury felled the starter. He advanced to the varsity, and by his junior year he was starring for Serra in two sports. Known for his incredible work ethic, Tom was a coach's dream. Dissatisfied with the football team's training regimen, he devised his own. Included was a jump rope routine that quickly became part of team workouts. Over the summers, only the most dedicated Padres joined Tom in his torturous training program.

By his senior season, Tom was seeing the fruits of his hard work. He gained national attention in 1994 as a quarterback, including All-America recognition by both Blue Chip Illustrated and Prep Football Report. He ended his prep career with 3,702 yards and 31 touchdowns. Tom was also honored as an All State and All-Far West performer. In baseball, he was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 draft.

By this time Tom had decided his future lay in football. It was a smart choice two players drafted ahead of him by the Expos (Michael Barrett and Brian Schneider) would become the team's catching tandem. Though recruited by colleges closer to home, Tom chose to accept a scholarship from the University of Michigan.

Tom arrived on campus in Ann Arbor in 1995 with no real shot at playing time. The program was under extreme pressure to produce a conference champion (it had been two years since the Wolverines last went to the Rose Bowl) and the coach, Gary Moeller, was fired before the season started following a drunken incident at a local restaurant. His replacement, defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr, faced high expectations and a murderous schedule.

Carr red-shirted Tom and went with freshman Scott Dreisbach and sophomore Brian Griese at quarterback. Though the team finished the regular season 9-3, they never developed much of a rhythm. The year ended with a 22-20 loss to Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl.

Tom spent the 1996 season as the Wolverines' number-three quarterback. He saw mop-up duty in just a couple of games, but made great strides in other ways. He developed a firm grasp of the team's playbook and got to practice with the first-stringers, which helped his timing and bolstered his confidence. Michigan, meanwhile, began to reassert itself as a Big Ten powerhouse. Its defense, led by linebacker Jared Irons and cornerback Charles Woodson, did solid work. The Wolverine offense was piloted by Dreisbach, who beat out Griese for the starting job in the preseason.

Disappointing losses to Northwestern and Penn State cast a pallor over an otherwise good season, and made many Michigan fans wonder whether Dreisbach was the right man for the job, When Carr played Griese against Auburn in the Outback Bowl and the Wolverines won 41-14 the quarterback job was once again up for grabs heading into the following season.

Tom played third fiddle once again in 1997. He pouted when Griese won the starting job in camp, and briefly considered transferring to Cal, where he'd have a better chance to play. But with Michigan dominating its opponents, Tom got snaps in three of the first four games. Though he yearned for a bigger role on the team, Ann Arbor suddenly seemed like an okay place to be. The campus was in the throes of a national title run, and Tom realized that there were worse things than being a back-up on a championship-caliber team. He also heeded advice from Carr, who told him to concentrate on improving his game.

Unfortunately, Tom's year ended early when he underwent an emergency appendectomy in October. During his recovery, he made up his mind to stop brooding and win the starting job at Michigan. Tom watched from the sidelines as Griese led the Wolverines to a share of the national title with a 21-16 win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl. He hoped to bring the team back to the big game himself one day.


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