ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This weekend in Foxboro, thousands of screaming fans gathered in the stadium parking lot to send off Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to their third Super Bowl in four years. In a brief speech, Brady assured them it was their support that was the reason for an undefeated record at home the past two years, and predicted if they play the way they can, there will be another celebration next week.
These days, Brady wears red, blue and silver, and belongs to the Boston-area faithful. But a thousand miles away in Ann Arbor, just across the street from Michigan Stadium where he won 20 games in two years as a starter for the Wolverines, a few other, more reserved fans will be rooting for their old co-worker. A guy they knew simply as "Tommy".
Before he was winning Super Bowl MVP's, escorting Hollywood starlets to award shows and being labeled by numerous magazines one of the world's most beautiful people, Brady was making $7 an hour at the University of Michigan Golf Course.
"Tommy was a very humble guy," recalls Charlie Green, Clubhouse Manager at the University of Michigan Golf Course. "He was good with customers, dependable, pleasant to be around, had leadership, low-profile. . .a lot of traits which I see now as a quarterback."
Brady worked mostly in the clubhouse behind the desk, taking phone calls and working in the pro shop. He didn't work much, only two or three shifts a week. Summer conditioning which consisted of three six-on-six scrimmages a week and workouts every sunrise kept his schedule busy. But the gig gave him unlimited free golf with a cart all summer long when he was able to find the time. Green says he mostly came out in the early evening with another quarterback who also worked at the course, Jason Kapsner. Green wouldn't play with them, but he'd drive a cart out on to the course and find and heckle them while they played, something he did with all his employees.
Green fills most of his positions at the clubhouse with retirees or student athletes, and Tommy wasn't the only Michigan QB to work for Green at the clubhouse. In fact, until this past summer, each of the Wolverines' starting quarterbacks worked at the course during the summer, from John Navarre, to Brady, all the way back to Brian Griese, who now plays in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The two positions that seem to gravitate towards this job is quarterbacks and linebackers," notes Green.
It's been five summers since Brady last worked at the course, but Green and those who were there when he was say he's still the subject of a lot of chatter at the course.
"Tommy's been a big topic of conversation for the last few years," remarks Green. "Everyone loved him. When we see him play in the NFL or his picture on the cover or Sports Illustrated or we read about his football or his girlfriends and all that stuff, we're all like 'wow'."
Brady still manages to pass through Ann Arbor between Bill Belichick boot camps every so often, and when he does, Green has several copies of Sports Illustrated with Brady on the cover waiting in his desk for him to sign. Brady can't make it back for every booster club or University charity scramble, but always manages to send a few autographed balls.
Brady had a putter in his hand by the age of three, thanks to his dad. He grew up learning the game at his local country club in the San Francisco area when he wasn't starring on the football or baseball field. In fact, he lettered playing baseball at Michigan as well. Today, he can still shoot pretty low, with the ability to break 80 despite playing under a dozen rounds a year due to his hectic schedule, which rarely allows a four hour block of time for golf.
In his last summer in Ann Arbor, prior to training camp his rookie year and before anyone could predict his meteoric rise from sixth round draft pick to Joe Montana 2.0, he had the chance to go on one last vacation to Scotland with his dad, a vacation he relished.
"Before the trip he was telling me how he really wanted to savor it because he wasn't sure how many more chances he'd have alone with his dad on a golf trip," says Green. "And when he came back he told us all about it and brought me a sleeve of balls from St. Andrews."
The spotlight will be on him for the third time in four years this Sunday in Jacksonville. This time around, spectators will find his now famously casual demeanor in the face of pressure more normal than incredible. If he wins the MVP, few will ask "where'd this guy come from?' this time around.
Rooting against Brady is a difficult thing to do, and it's a no-brainer Green and the rest of the clubhouse staff will be rooting for him and the Patriots this Sunday.
"Of course we'll be pulling for the Pats," says Green. "We'll all be watching with great interest. He's just an all-around good kid. You hate to get too gushy over a guy. . .but he's almost too good to be true."
January 31, 2005