Worth mentioning after Tom Brady won his fifth title: He could’ve been a Golden Bear. Twice.
Brady was recruited by Cal back in the 1994-95 season by head coach Keith Gilbertson and offensive coordinator Steve Mariucci. Brady committed to Cal back in the 1995 season at the behest of his father, who wanted his San Mateo boy to stay home.
“We tried really hard to recruit him to Cal,” Gilbertson said. “I was always high on Tom from an early age when we had him in camp. I’m not surprised he’s done well because he had a lot going for him.”
Gilbertson vividly remembers that 1994 camp in which Brady, not the nimblest athlete, won MVP honors with a live, accurate arm.
Cal wanted him badly, and the feeling was mutual in so far as Brady’s dad was concerned.
“Much to my dismay, he went to Michigan,” the senior Brady said. “I went to a psychologist for three months afterward. He’s my youngest child, and we’re pretty close.
But Brady was blown away by his Michigan official visit to January, and he decided to be a Wolverine instead.
From Schembechler Hall to the famed “Big House” football stadium. From the winged helmets to the tradition of heralded quarterbacks such as Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac and Brian Griese, the latter of whom he competed with for the starting job.
Brady relayed his findings to his father: “This place is fabulous.”
He didn’t announce his decision in a big-time news conference at Serra. But he still made headlines.
“It came down to Michigan and Cal, and I just had a gut feeling that I should go to Michigan,” Brady said in a San Jose Mercury News article on Jan. 18, 1995. “I sat down with my parents last night and made the decision. Michigan has been in touch since the beginning, but I wasn’t sure how interested they were until I went back there.”
These were the early days of recruiting, so this story became a sobering recruiting lesson the Bears: Cal was so certain that Brady was coming, they had no backup plan. Cal landed the commitment of Mike Murphy from Aptos, who would leave Cal after the 1996 season.
Sadly, that isn’t where the story ends for Cal. Brady nearly transferred to Cal in college after losing out early in the quarterback battle for the starting Michigan job. More from the book Heart of the Huddle:
“When tryouts began in 1997, Griese and Driesbach once again locked horns for the starting quarterback job. To their
“I turned into a whiner,” he admits. “Nothing was my fault, and finally I told Coach Carr that I wanted to transfer to Cal. He said, ‘Just put everything else out of your mind and worry about making yourself better.’ He was right.”
This account is verified by Michigan athletic counseling director, Greg Harden.
The thought entered his mind to pack up and transfer to Cal. “He was feeling like a victim,” says Harden. “And he hated it. If he wasn’t depressed, he was close.”
Obviously, Brady turned it around and probably made the right decision. Gilbertson would only be at Cal a year, and Mariucci a year after that before the darkness of the Tom Holmoe era ruined a generation of Bear fans.
Brady would go onto follow Henson as the starting quarterback for Michigan from 1998 to 1999, beating Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl and Alabama in the Orange Bowl, winning a share of a Big Ten title in his first season as the starter.
It’s fun to ponder what life could have been like if Cal had two of the greatest quarterbacks that ever lived in the span of a decade.
Good news: Tom Brady’s dad remains a big Cal fan.
“Cal was in a different trend. They were struggling,” the elder Brady said. “They did not have the coaches as they do now.
“I’m a huge Cal fan. I think the world of Cal.”