ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There’s only one man Jim Harbaugh would move aside for at Michigan.
“For Tom Brady, I would give him a deep long bow, step aside and I’ll coach quarterbacks for him,” said Harbaugh, Michigan’s third-year football coach.
Harbaugh may have said it in jest, as he was caught up in the excitement of National Signing Day on Wednesday. But Michigan’s third-year coach won’t deny Brady’s impact on football.
“Tom Brady is the greatest football player to ever play,” Harbaugh said. “When you can play that good, that consistently great, year after year after year, game after game after game, nobody’s ever done it. Nobody’s ever done it like Tom Brady has.”
Brady, who played at Michigan from 1995-99, was at last year’s Signing of the Stars but was not at Wednesday’s welcome to Michigan’s incoming freshmen. For good reason.
Brady is preparing for Sunday, when the New England Patriots face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston. Brady will play for his fifth Super Bowl championship.
When informed of Harbaugh’s comments Wednesday in Houston, Brady responded in kind.
“Well, I mean I’d do anything to help the University of Michigan,” Brady said. “He (Harbaugh) wants me to be involved and I love it. I don’t know about quarterback coach, but words of wisdom to that quarterback group — I would love to do that.”
He’s become one of the NFL’s most prominent players and personalities, but there wasn’t much that was memorable in Brady’s first two seasons at Michigan.
At one point, he thought about transferring. An ESPN report also detailed a complicated relationship between Brady and the school. Even his entry into the NFL could have been an afterthought. The Patriots selected him in the sixth round, at No. 199, in the 2000 draft.
In the 17 years since, Brady has produced memorable NFL moments, on and off the field. Lest you’d forget, here’s a look at five of his memorable moments at Michigan, as a player and as an alumnus.
The first comeback
Sept. 4, 1999: Brady made his first start of the season in Michigan’s season opener against Notre Dame, then sat out the second quarter in favor of Drew Henson. When he returned to the game, it was to the boos of Michigan fans.
Yet Brady remained cool, and helped Michigan to a 26-22 win against the Irish, finishing 17-for-24 passing for 197 yards, and steering the game-winning drive capped by Anthony Thomas scoring from 1 yard out with 1:38 remaining.
Continuing to come back
Nov. 20, 1999: A week after Brady helped Michigan to a 31-27 comeback win at Penn State, Michigan trailed again. This time, it was to Ohio State by seven points. Brady connected with Shawn Thompson for an 8-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds of the third quarter, then found Marquise Walker with 5:01 left in regulation to lift Michigan to a 24-17 win.
Brady was 17-for-27 passing for 150 yards against the Buckeyes in his final game at Michigan Stadium.
Putting the squeeze on Alabama
Jan. 1, 2000: In Michigan’s 35-34 overtime win against Alabama in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla., Brady threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns and set Orange Bowl passing records for attempts (46), completions (34) and yards (369).
A preseason pep talk
Aug. 22, 2013: In an impassioned speech during Michigan’s August training camp, Brady discussed his love for the game, as well as what he learned in his time at Michigan, which wasn’t always smooth.
“Not every kid is playing at Michigan,” Brady told the 2013 team. “This place is special to me, it’s special to the guys that I played with, it’s special to the guys that played before me because we love Michigan.”
A leadership role
Sept. 17, 2016: During his NFL-mandated four-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate, Brady still got around. In fact, he served as Michigan’s honorary captain prior to its 45-28 win against Colorado, and instantly forged a connection with Harbaugh on the field.
Brady and Harbaugh throwing to each other pregame pic.twitter.com/TQNhDQsQMP
— Michele Steele (@ESPNMichele) September 17, 2016