Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link: https://comanpub.uberflip.com/i/1133482

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 179

BY JOHN BORTON H e is arguably the greatest quar- terback ever to pull on a hel- met. He is inarguably the most decorated. Tom Brady owns more Super Bowl cham- pionship rings than he can wear on one hand. He is three plays away from sporting three more. He holds NFL records for combined regular season and playoff passing yards (81,693) and touchdowns (590), regular- season wins by a starting quarterback (207), division titles (16), playoff wins (30), play- off touchdown passes (73), playoff passing yards (11,179), Super Bowl passing yards (2,838) and Super Bowl TD tosses (18). He is married to a supermodel, lives a dream life and easily garners the most prom- inent spot on any Mount Rushmore the NFL might construct. Yet he is still in early to practice. He still works feverishly, maniacally, laboring like a rookie trying to hang onto any job at all in The League. He is in the pocket, surveying the field like an assassin ready for another takedown, but also looking over his shoulder and making certain nobody catches up. The loyalty within Brady remains fierce. When he returned to Michigan for a football game against Colorado in 2016, he spent the most time with two people — his old equip- ment manager and the former dishwasher at a favored pizza hangout. Brady is as big as it gets in professional football, as big as it will likely ever get. Yet the forces driving him to the game's apex, and relationships he still cherishes, remain rooted in Ann Arbor. Brady never had it easy here — not once. Not as a freshman, trying to decide whether to stay or go home to California. Not as a fifth-year senior, getting pulled off the field for portions of games to make way for a golden-boy underclassman. He hasn't made it easy on opponents ever since. Brady's professional career has played out in storybook fashion. Those who don't know the prologue, though, cannot fully appreciate the tale. Here it is — the agony, the occasional ecstasy and the angst of the Michigan years, propelling Brady to football's iron throne via his own iron will. The California Kid Brady's coiffure weaved through varying looks like Barry Sanders through would- be tacklers over the years. The locks hung freely when he first arrived, allowing some to kid the San Mateo, Calif., transplant about an easy-reach stereotype. "You mean long-haired, surfboard, Cali- fornia-kid Tommy?" former Michigan All- American and Brady contemporary Jon Jan- sen said with a laugh. The funny thing is, insisted Jay Flannelly, the aforementioned dishwasher, Brady didn't fit the stereotype. There was this one time, though … "I may joke about the beach boy, Cali- fornia dummy," Flannelly said, laughing. "I never thought he was like that, though. But he was one time, because he came to school and forgot to bring a winter coat. "Guys were in the locker room and talk- ing about it, and Big Jonny heard it. Five minutes later, Jonny came out and gave him a Michigan winter coat." Jonny, of course, is Jon Falk, Michigan's iconic equipment man since Bo Schem- bechler's early days at Michigan. Falk be- came the confidant of many players down through the years, including Brady. Their relationship formed early on, with a coat and some kind words, far from home. "He was a quiet guy, as most freshmen are," Falk recalled. "As time went on and he started to play more and develop more, that changed." It might have changed in another venue, Flannelly pointed out. Flannelly, aka "The Beav," worked then at Mr. Spots, a player- favored eatery just up State Street from Schembechler Hall. He introduced Brady to savory chicken wings there and assisted in various capacities at Schembechler through most of the 1990s. The Andover, Mass., native is friends with and a high school teammate of former Wol- verine Joe Marinaro, co-captain of the team in 1995. Flannelly credits Marinaro with helping preserve the legend before it even began to form. "Tom was a really young kid, low-key," Flannelly said. "But he was always asking a lot of really good questions, because he didn't play a lot of football. He was a base- ball guy, mostly." He was also homesick. That's hardly a revelation for most first-year players, espe- cially ones that travel across the country to land in an unfamiliar spot. But it's always a consideration — and Brady's NFL Regular-Season Records BEST RECORD FOR A STARTING SIGNAL-CALLER (WITH A MINIMUM OF 40 STARTS) IN HOME REGULAR- SEASON CONTESTS (WHICH EQUATES OUT TO AN 86.4 WINNING PERCENTAGE) 115-18 26 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS/DAVID SILVERMAN

Articles in this issue

view archives of Michigan Football Preview 2019 - Digital Edition