We all have to start somewhere.
And they were rolling.
The Wolverines built a 35-3 lead at the Big House, and with the fourth quarter underway, it was time to empty the bench and pull the starters. Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr decided to make a change at quarterback, sending in a redshirt freshman who was in his second year with the program.
On his first possession in the game, and in college football, the Wolverines faced a 3rd and 7. Michigan put the ball in Brady’s hands, hoping he would extend the drive through the air.
He did not:
His throw went directly to Phillip Ward, a linebacker with the Bruins, and the defender returned 42 yards for a UCLA touchdown. It was Ward’s second interception of the day, and it would be the only time the visitors reached the end zone on the afternoon.
The play was a dark moment in what would be a dark season for Brady. He would play in just one more game that year for Michigan, and looked to be buried on the depth chart. Complicating matters, Carr was not the coach who recruited him — that was Gary Moeller who left the program for … reasons — and Brady questioned his future with the program.
At the end of the season, he went to tell Carr that he was transferring. But that is when the coach told Brady something he would never forget. “It’ll be something you’ll regret for the rest of your life,” Carr told the young quarterback. “You came here to be the best. You came here because of the great competition. If you walk away now, you’ll always wish you had stayed … you’ll always wonder what would have happened if you stayed.”
Brady slept on it, and the next day returned to Carr, telling him he was staying. Not only would he remain at Michigan, but he had a mission.
“I’m staying,” Brady declared to his coach, “And I’m going to prove to you I am a great quarterback.”
Years later, when Brady fell to the sixth round and was drafted by the New England Patriots, he had an almost similar message for his new boss, Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Shortly after being drafted, he met the New England owner, and shared with him a similar message:
“I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”
So, Happy Anniversary Tom Brady. It almost looks like that interception years ago was the best mistake you ever made.