Raising A Champion: Tom Brady’s Father Recounts Son’s Upbringing

om Brady is a champion. Over 17 seasons in the NFL, the star quarterback has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl wins, broken numerous records – and is poised to break even more this season — and has achieved legendary status in New England, where many consider him to be the greatest quarterback of all time.

So when did his father, Tom Brady Sr., know that his son was great?

He didn’t. In fact, he says, “we never did.”

“It was never that he was great. It was always that he was really good and we hoped he’d get the chance to move on to the next level,” Brady Sr. said.

Tom Brady got that chance, rising from the 199th pick in the NFL draft to become one of the leaders of the NFL. And all along the way, through triumphant wins and devastating losses, was his family, from his mother Galynn Brady, who recently battled illness, to his siblings, his wife Gisele Bundchen and children, and his namesake, Tom Brady Sr.

The Brady patriarch sat down with Eagle-Tribune Executive Sports Editor Bill Burt on Wednesday evening at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill to chat all things “Raising a Champion,” from the quarterback’s competitive and loving upbringing in California, to his sports highs and lows, to the thrills of his years on the Patriots.

It was clear the elder Brady has great admiration for his son, both as a consummate competitor and as a family man, with tales of a family water fight sneaking their way in between stories about memorable football games.

That admiration goes both ways. While many in New England consider Brady to be a hero, he considers his father to be his, and grew emotional during opening night for Super Bowl LI talking about it.

The bond between father and son resonated with many in the crowd of well more than 200 who came to listen to the elder Brady at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill on Wednesday. Among them were Phil Hooke of Derry, New Hampshire, who brought his two young boys, Bryson, 10, and Ryan, 8, to the event.

“This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to come and hear about things like sportsmanship and positive competitiveness,” Hooke said, adding that he also wanted his boys to hear about “overcoming adversity.”

Brady Sr. delivered the message. Hooke hoped it would stick.

“He seems like a really good guy,” Bryson Hooke said afterward. “One reason is because he raised the greatest quarterback of all time.”

But Tom Brady wasn’t always a star quarterback. He played other sports, like baseball and basketball and golf. As he got closer to college, he decided to focus on football. His decision to play at the University of Michigan instead of staying in California “broke my heart,” Brady Sr. said.

“He went off to Michigan, and I went off to a psychologist, literally,” Brady Sr. said, to applause from the crowd as he laughed. “That’s tough, breaking the bonds.”

Brady’s path at Michigan wasn’t easy. Nor was his foray into the NFL. Waiting for him to be drafted was emotional for the whole family. After watching six quarterbacks be selected before him, the elder Brady said his son was just about to leave the house and go for a drive when the New England Patriots called and said “Bill Belichick wants to talk to your son.”

“When he was in high school, we hoped he’d get the chance to play in college. When he was in college, we hoped he’d get a chance to get drafted, and we hoped he’d get to carry a clipboard for two or three years and get on with his life,” he said.

Brady being on the Patriots is “one of the great blessings that we could have ever hoped for,” Brady Sr. said.

Brady’s first Super Bowl win is his father’s favorite. He even came to the event sporting Brady’s championship ring from the game. The most recent one, though, the Patriots’ stunning come-from-behind overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons, is “as (team owner Robert) Kraft said, ‘this is the sweetest.’ I gotta believe this is the sweetest.”

Is five Super Bowls enough for the competitive Brady family?

“No,” Brady Sr. said simply. It’s on to the next one.