For all Tom Brady’s remarkable NFL success, there was a time when he was overmatched … in high school.
As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Brady last played on a team that missed the playoffs (or a bowl game) in consecutive years when he was in high school. While starting for Junipero Serra (Gardena, Calif.) as a junior and senior, Brady was unable to lead his team in the sectional playoffs.
In fact, those Serra teams struggled against the area’s power programs. As a junior, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) topped Serra 44-0 while St. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.) rolled to a 63-6 victory. That second blowout was particularly telling because it involved another future professional athlete: since retired MLB outfielder turned ultramarathoner Eric Byrnes.
“It is true Tom Brady hit the furthest home run I ever saw hit in high school,” Byrnes told MLB Network during a show in 2018. “Rumors are true, too; I sacked him three times.”
Matt Scharrenberg, a St. Francis defensive back when Brady played who is now the St. Francis defensive coordinator, says Brady threw at least one interception in that loss (to Scharrenberg himself) and was largely overwhelmed by St. Francis’ superior overall talent. “Truthfully, we knew they weren’t good enough to beat us.”
The same was true of Archbishop Mitty, which competed for the league title year after year. Not so for Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.), whose coach had a vivid memory of his team’s matchup with Brady in 1994.
“It’s really amazing,” Bellarmine football coach Mike Janda told the Mercury News. “You see the quick release, the poise, the accuracy, the strength of the arm. So effortless and smooth the way he threw the ball in high school. In our game — and this is really sad — we decided as a coaching staff, and not doing it very smartly, that we were going to play a lot of man coverage. That was not a good thing.
“Our guys played their hearts out. You can watch it on film. They were right with the guys. But Tom Brady put some beautiful passes right on the money. On that day, he threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns. This is the era before the spread offense, throwing it every down.”
So, despite failing to reach the playoffs in 6-4 and 5-5 seasons, Brady was already showing plenty of promise to become the player he is today. It wasn’t always all about winning. It was about learning and improving to win in the future. As it turns out, the future has just lasted a lot longer than anyone expected.