In First Game In Hometown, Tom Brady Focused More On Enjoying The Moment Than Spiking The Football
By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- There aren't many 49ers fans left in the Brady family these days.
"We don't talk about the 49ers anymore," Brady said Wednesday regarding his family's involvement with the Bay Area's football team. "That was all we used to ever talk about. ... We were part of the 49er faithful for a long time."
Though the family is from San Mateo, a quick drive down the 101 from the now-defunct Candlestick Park, the allegiance to the Red and Gold swiftly evaporated on or around the date of April 15, 2000 -- the date of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Already to that point, Brady's career had taken a unique shape. He was drafted to play baseball for the Expos, but instead chose to play college football at Michigan, where he spent much of his time on the bench. Even when he did get to play, he had to share snaps with supposed wunderkind Drew Henson. Brady at one point wanted to transfer to Cal, but he stuck it out, won an Orange Bowl and put together a college resume that made him worthy of being drafted to the NFL.
And he hoped he'd got a shot with his hometown team -- the one he rooted for in the stands and helped instill in him a love of the game. It made sense, too. Steve Young had retired, and the 49ers were keenly looking for the next great quarterback to hopefully make a transition as smooth as the one from Joe Montana to Young.
But instead of going with the local kid who had worked out for them prior to the draft, the 49ers went with Giovanni Carmazzi.
Carmazzi would end up playing in NFL Europe by 2001. Brady won the Super Bowl that same year.
This year, Brady will be fighting to win his fifth Super Bowl. Carmazzi owns five goats.
In a 2011 documentary, Brady showed how even 11 years after the fact, getting ignored for so long by so many teams during that 2000 draft still made him emotional.
Now at age 39, Brady admitted in a conference call with San Francisco media that he did wear a chip on his shoulder for some time after getting overlooked.
"I think you have different ways, and I have different things that have motivated me at different times," Brady said. "I'll never forget I worked out for the 49ers when I was coming out in 2000. I wasn't – they obviously went in a different direction and that's ... I'm very happy where I ended up. I think I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the Patriots. I've played with so many great players over the years and I've played for, I feel, the best head coach ever, some great assistant coaches and teammates that have committed everything to help us win. I've just been blessed to play quarterback for this team. I love doing it, and hopefully I can do it for a long time. It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully we can keep it going."
It's not surprising that the older, wiser Brady specifically mentioned Bill Belichick, who's led the Patriots to a 216-80 record (including playoffs) during a stretch where the team has reached the Super Bowl six times and won it four times. During that same period, the 49ers have had seven different head coaches, owning a 124-140 regular-season record and just a 4-5 postseason record while missing the playoffs entirely in 11 out of 16 seasons (soon to be 12 out of 17).
So clearly, things worked out for the 199th pick of the 2000 Draft. And though his family's allegiance to the 49ers may have ended abruptly at the turn of the century, Brady still holds many fond memories from his childhood.
"Growing up in the Bay Area and loving football, it was a great time for me to grow up and see the success of the 49ers and the great quarterbacks, Steve and Joe and what they were able to do," Brady said. "I was lucky to grow up in the Bay Area at that time and I always remember it being all the Super Bowl rallies and my mom taking me out of school and banging pots and pans on the El Camino after they would win Super Bowls. Those memories never go away."
Brady shared the tale of how at 4 years old he was in the crowd when Dwight Clark made "The Catch," telling the media that he spent the entire first half crying to his father for a foam finger. And when Clark made the famous play in the back of the end zone ... he cried again.
"It was just a great -- I remember we were on the opposite side of the stadium, and I started crying when everyone jumped up and screamed at the end when Dwight made the catch," Brady said. "I still have those memories."
Brady was also asked about Montana, his childhood idol, and how he feels whenever he's compared to the Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl champ. As is his custom, Brady said he's not in Montana's class -- but his description of Montana matches perfectly with the way many aspiring young quarterbacks in New England likely feel about Brady.
"Well, I don't ever see myself like him. He was so spectacular and I think he's in a league of his own," Brady said. "I'm going to try to keep finding ways to help my team and to be the best I can be every week. I feel like I've learned a lot over the last few years with my style of play. Like I said, I love being here and competing and hopefully winning, and that's what Joe did. He was a winner. Every time he took the field, it felt like the 49ers were going to win. I remember rooting for that team when Joe was playing quarterback and you always felt like they were going to win no matter who they were playing, where they were playing at."
Clearly, the 49ers meant a lot to Brady ... until April 2000, when the hometown team stiff-armed him multiple times while instead choosing to draft the likes of Carmazzi (pick No. 65), safety John Keith (No. 108) and defensive end John Milem -- three players who combined played 41 games in the NFL. San Francisco, of course, wasn't the only team to ignore him. Every team passed oh him -- multiple times, and that includes the Patriots.
But given those hometown ties, the pre-draft workout and all of those fond memories, it had to have made it sting just a bit more.
Now, 17 years later and in the fourth quarter of his career, Brady finally is getting his first chance to play an NFL game in his hometown, in front all of friends and family and coaches and mentors and teachers. A younger Brady may have used this as an opportunity to drive home the fact that the 49ers made a critical mistake in that fateful draft. But considering his Zen-like demeanor in these later portion of his career, given what he's been through in recent years, and adding in all that he's been able to accomplish over 17 seasons, it seems as though the quarterback is more focused on soaking in the joy of the opportunity.
After that rocky beginning as a backup in college and the 199th pick of the draft, circumstances managed to work themselves out so that when Brady did finally get to play in San Francisco, he'd be able to simply appreciate the moment.
"I may never get the opportunity again, so it's nice to have all the support, and I've had a lot from the Bay Area over the years," Brady said. "My high school, my elementary school, and I still have so many friends from growing up and coaches, my family, my aunts and uncles, cousins. It will just be a lot of fun to be out there."
You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.
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