What if Tom Brady had chosen to stick with baseball? What if teams that drafted quarterbacks ahead of the Patriots in 2000 had gone with Brady over “The Brady 6” of Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn?
Long before his professional prospects shook out, though, Brady made a decision that would have a butterfly effect on both his football career and the sport’s history as a whole.
As we look at recruiting, we know just how agonizing decisions can be, from the nation’s top prospects to those trying to decide which Div. III school to attend. And we now know just how close Brady was to remaining close to his San Mateo (Calif.) home for college.
After reading a piece on Tom Brady’s long flirtation with the University of California from SBNation’s CaliforniaGoldenBlogs.com last month, former Cal assistant Denny Schuler had quite the story to tell the site.
“The story would be much more frustrating for Cal readers (I’m sure I’ve told you the timeline of events before) if they knew that Brady actually committed to me and Cal with his parents in a home visit after his official visit to Cal the weekend before,” Schuler said.
Schuler was the Cal offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for head coach Keith Gilbertson from 1993 through 95. He was in charge of Brady’s recruitment, and as he tells California Golden Blogs, Shuler thought he had Brady all but headed to Berkeley.
“Because I felt the commitment was good I reluctantly agreed to allow him (his mother’s request as Tom’s grandfather played at Michigan) to visit Ann Arbor thinking we would be OK, as he had favored us from Day 1. I should have insisted he cancel his scheduled visit to Michigan and call the newspaper to make an unofficial commit to Cal before the official signing date but his mother all but begged me to let Tom make the upcoming visit.
“Gilbertson (and Artie Gigantino – his “area recruiter”) were anxious/nervous but I felt we were OK. My “bad”, I should have said no more visits and I’m sure we would’ve had Brady.”
Rather than fully commit to the 38-mile trip from San Mateo’s Junipero Serra High to Berkeley, Brady opted to take the more circuitous route, trekking the 2,300-plus-mile trip from home to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a recruiting trip. That one journey begat Brady’s willingness to head far from home to play football. And the sport’s history has been forever changed based on this one decision.
Cal went 21-35 with three different head coaches in the time Brady would have been there (1995-1999). Despite starting just 25 games in his five years on campus, Michigan was 49-13 with three bowl wins in that time, with Brady leading the way in the last two bowl victories.
One can only imagine Schuler’s reaction each time he watches Brady. It’s the nature of the business for any recruiter – go hard after certain guys, and come up a bit short. Then you can only do your job, while occasionally looking up at your TV to check in on the one that got away.
Only this one that got away, 22 years after that almost-commitment to Cal, has become arguably the greatest QB in the game’s history. And five Super Bowl wins and four Super Bowl MVP awards later, he’s still going strong. With his well-documented frustration at being platooned with top recruit Drew Henson at Michigan, then falling in the draft to the Patriots, it could be argued that there has never been a greater butterfly effect on football history than Brady’s college decision.
Brady has left countless people in the football profession shaking their heads in disbelief through the years. Schuler is part of that fraternity.
College football recruiting will never run out of “What if?” scenarios. Brady’s is an all-timer.