Before there was Peyton Manning, there was Drew Henson.
But unlike Manning, Tom Brady’s biggest rival in college was a member of his own team. Henson came to the University of Michigan in 1998, Brady’s fourth year in Ann Arbor, as a one of highest-rated recruits in the country. And his arrival sparked an outright duel for the position of starting quarterback.
“All the coaches thought they might have found the next John Elway,” Brady writes in his new book, The TB12 Method. “A lot of people were really eager to see what he could do on the field.”
Michigan’s head coach at the time Lloyd Carr chose Brady to be the team’s starting passer for the entirety of the 1998 season. Despite kicking things off with back-to-back losses, Brady led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record that culminated with their first-ever Citrus Bowl victory. He characterized it as “a pretty good year, and a memorable one.”
Due to significantly less playing time, Henson’s stats paled in comparison to those of Brady: 42.2% completion rate versus 61.9%, three touchdowns versus 14, and 233 passing yards versus 2427. However, despite Brady’s success on the field, Coach Carr was not ready to willingly award him the starting job again.
“In 1999, when I began my fifth season, the rivalry between Drew Henson and me had intensified,” Brady writes. “Everyone—the coaches, the fans—wanted to see Drew out there on the field.”
Four days prior to Michigan’s home opener against Notre Dame, Coach Carr had announced his plan for game, and quite frankly, the rest of the season. Brady, the team captain, would be starting the first quarter, before Henson would take over in the second. Whichever quarterback was playing better would finish out the game.
The idea of this rotational strategy remained internal for approximately 24 hours. Brady recounts in his book:
Early the following day, I remember telling my dad about Coach Carr’s decision. Somehow a member of the media got a hold of him on the phone and asked for a comment. I think the reporter was trying to bait him—and he succeeded, too!
“How do you feel about your son starting against Notre Dame?” the reporter asked.
“Well,” my dad said, “I spoke to Tom, and he’s really excited to play the first quarter, and then Drew will play the second quarter.”
With the help of Brady’s dad, the media was able to break the story. His loose lips inspired one of Brady’s three sisters to give him the appropriate nickname, well, “loose lips.” As Brady writes, “That nickname still fits him quite well!”
In 2015, Brady Sr. called into a San Francisco radio show to argue with the host over his son as well as call NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “a flaming liar.” And in 2017, he appeared on a local San Francisco news station to further rip Goodell.
“Goodell went on a witch hunt and went in way over his head and had to lie his way out in numerous ways,” Brady Sr. said, “and the reality is that Tommy never got suspended for deflating footballs. He got suspended because the court said that he could — Roger Goodell could do anything he wanted to do to any player for any reason whatsoever. That’s what happened. The NFL admitted they had no evidence on him.”
Following that interview, Brady told WEEI’s Kirk Callahan that he has “banned” his dad from talking to the media. That all being said, the five-time Super Bowl champion has spoken effusively about how the two have maintained a very close relationship over the years.