Tom Brady has message of perseverance for 2020 senior class

The Bucs quarterback taped a commencement video celebrating Florida’s high school seniors.
Tom Brady posted a message of encouragement for Florida's high school seniors.
Tom Brady posted a message of encouragement for Florida's high school seniors. [ YouTube ]
Published May 18, 2020

TAMPA ― Tom Brady was the backup quarterback on a freshman football team at Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., that did not win a single game.

"Our team was terrible, but not only that, I was so terrible that I didn’t even get a chance to play,'' Brady said. "Fortunately, going into my second year, the quarterback from the previous year had retired. He wanted to play basketball because he was done with playing football, so I got an opportunity to play and I really fell in love with the sport.

“So, my journey in football started off, I would say, pretty slowly.''

Overcoming adversity is certainly a theme for the Florida high school classes of 2020, and the Bucs quarterback stuck to that theme in a commencement message he taped for graduating seniors.

Brady, who signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs after winning six Super Bowls in 20 seasons with the Patriots, has been the ultimate overachiever.

He traced his career from that freshman team to the seventh quarterback on the depth chart at the University of Michigan, where his first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

"I would say I was a late bloomer in many ways,'' Brady said. "And I eventually was offered a scholarship to a few schools, and I ended up choosing the University of Michigan. And when I started at the University of Michigan, I was the seventh quarterback on the depth chart. I was looking up at a lot of people, and it was a very daunting challenge because I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get a chance to play.

“The only thing I could do was focus on what I could do on being a great leader, being a great teammate, working as hard as I could to try to make the necessary improvements so my coaches and my teammates would trust me and give me a chance to play, which finally happened.

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“And the first pass I ever threw in college was my second year and I ended up throwing a pass over the middle off the field and it went for a touchdown,” Brady continued. "But the problem was, I ended up throwing that pass to the middle linebacker of the other team who returned the pass about 45 yards for a touchdown and the only points scored by that team on that particular afternoon. So again, adversity fuels greatness, and I certainly learned from that.''

Of course, despite his success at Michigan, Brady was overlooked and started at the bottom again in the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2000. When he arrived in New England, he was fourth on the depth chart behind starter Drew Bledsoe.

“I went back to the roots of what I started in high school,'' Brady said. "I started with my work ethic. I started with my teammates and I started by gaining their trust and what I learned and really honed in my experience with Michigan was to really focus on the things I can control. And all those adversities I faced in high school and college led me to the belief when I got my opportunity in pro football that I was going to be able to take advantage of my opportunity.

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“I always thought if I ever get a chance to play, they’re never going to take me off the field.''

Brady challenged high school seniors to remember the adversity they already have overcome in their lives, including navigating a worldwide pandemic.

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“Twenty years later, I’m playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and I still have that approach to my career,'' Brady said. "I still have that approach to a lot of things that are important to my life. Discipline, determination, work ethic, leadership — those are all very sustainable and endearing traits.

"You guys are going to learn that as you focus on this next chapter in your life. And hopefully, you’ve learned incredible lessons that are going to help guide and lead you on this journey because, I’ll tell you what — it’s not going to be easy. There’s tough competition in the real world. There’s a lot of responsibilities. Your priorities are going to continue to grow and to change as you get older.''

Brady concluded by saying each member of the class of 2020 can chart their own course in life.

“When you make your list of priorities, and when you make decisions, make decisions that are in line with your priorities,'' he said. "So many people over the course of my career, they want to be a great player but they don’t want to make the commitment.

"For you guys, what do you want to be? And if you think about that, the answer of what you want to be and what you can be is all going to be determined by you, because your life is what you make of it.''