How Would You Recruit Tom Brady Today?

You want him to play for you: What would it take to leave New England and play for your team?

Here’s the scenario:

You coach for a NFL team not named the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady is a free agent, and your boss just told you that he’s coming in for a meeting, and your job is to sell him on your team.

How would you do it?

Tough question, right? Because remember:

  • He’s already won championships.

  • Money probably isn’t going to motivate him, other than as an indicator of what you think of him and his abilities as he approaches the end of his career.

  • Your facility out-doing a competitor’s facility isn’t all that likely. At that level, every facility is top of the line.

  • Your system will probably adjust to his abilities and preferences if he were to choose you, so that’s not a major differentiator between you and another program.

So what’s left?

It’s interesting to look back on some of the things that comprised the decision making process of the Brady family 25 years ago, when he was a football and baseball star at Serra High School in Northern California, if we’re looking for a few hints:

Brady made several unofficial visits to USC. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Brady met former Trojans star—and Serra graduate—Lynn Swann at the 1994 UCLA-USC game.

Here is their exchange, according to a 1995 Chronicle story:

Brady: “Hey, I hear you went to my high school.”

Swann: “Excuse me, are you 42 years old?”

Brady: “No.”

Swann: “Then YOU go to MY high school.”

Later, Swann introduced Brady to Robinson, another Serra alum. “See him?” Swann said, according to the paper. “We went to HIS high school.”

First lesson: Don’t be a conceited jerk and try to put him in his place.

The Michigan coaches got Brady to campus in early January 1995.

They hit him with the ultimate “Michigan Man” sales pitch, and Brady was intrigued. A few days after Brady returned home from Ann Arbor, a major domino fell. Cade McNown of West Linn, Ore., committed to UCLA, one of Brady’s other top choices. Brady then canceled his scheduled visit to UCLA.

In mid-January, his position coach at Michigan picked up his phone. On the other end was Brady, and he wanted to be a Michigan Man. The coach was overjoyed, but he played it cool on the phone.

Second lesson: You’ll need a reason to give him to be a part of your program. Have a pitch. You can’t be shy…he needs a reason to say yes to you.

The father of the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback recalls that in the summer of 1994, after Tom Brady’s junior year at Serra High School in San Mateo, California, it was time to do “a little marketing.”

“We had some game tapes and collated them to his abilities, and then we had it verified by his quarterback guru,” the elder Brady said. “Then we sat down and decided what schools he would even consider. We sent the tapes out to those schools. I think there were around 54 schools.”

Third lesson: He’s going to enlist other people in the decision. (When you have a supermodel wife, and kids, their opinions are going to factor in to your a decision in the Brady house).

Back to the original question:

What’s left?

Same thing that was left 25 years ago: Emotional factors, being sold on a reason to commit to one program over another, and listening to the opinions of others.

Recruiting a superstar isn’t any different than recruiting a walk-on kid.

Which brings up something I need to admit to you right now: I actually buried the lead on this article, Coach. The big ah-ha moment for you should be in realizing that your everyday run-of-the-mill high school recruit makes their decision the same way as an NFL superstar. Or, maybe more accurately, your superstar recruits are going to make their decisions the same way that your run-of-the-mill kids are going to make theirs.

College coaches sometimes assume that their top kids’ brains are wired differently than their lower-tier recruits, and vice versa. They aren’t. They all think the same, just like we do now as adults in making non-recruiting buying decisions in our lives. We make buying decisions based on the opinions of others, how we’re treated, and being asked for the sale.

Last question for today:

What needs to change in the way you approach your recruiting messaging, and how you treat your recruits?

P.S. For those coaches who are Honey Badger Recruiting subscribers, we’re going to dive deeper into the topic of recruiting top-tier prospects in the next few posts coming up.


How Michigan and Tom Brady Recruited Each Other

The College Recruitment of Tom Brady