FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has worn a figurative chip on his shoulder since being the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. He also has something else: his University of Michigan epaulettes.
“I have been wearing them for 25 years,” he said.
The revelation, first made on the “Quick Slants” podcast on NBC Sports Boston, means Brady wore those shoulder pads on his Michigan debut before five of his current teammates were born.
The epaulettes were first presented to him during his freshman year in 1995, and Brady was in his third season with the “Douglas 25L” when cornerback Joejuan Williams, the Patriots second-round pick at Vanderbilt this year was born in December 1997.
The reason for long-term marriage is simple.
“Once you find something you like, you stick with it,” Brady said.
It comes as no surprise former Michigan equipment manager Jon Falk, who hooked up with Brady from 1995 to 1999 and remains in contact with him today.
“Douglas was from Houston, Texas, and if a kid wanted something special on their pads, I would call them up and they would custom make them,” Falk recalls. “I remember Tom wanted lighter shoulder pads and caps. He wanted to cover himself up to the chest. I knew we had a special fit for that type of protection.”
The shoulder pads are the plastic pieces on top of the shoulder pad cap. Falk described the “Douglas 25L” as a “light tampon, but with good protection”. It’s always been the balance with shoulder pads for quarterbacks.
Brady said he experimented with other shoulder pads, but always came back to what he wore in Michigan, mostly because he got used to the shape and feel.
“It becomes a personal thing and you never want to mess with it. So as long as they’re happy I’m happy,” said Falk, who retired as an equipment manager in 2013 but is returned to school as a special assistant. to train Jim Harbaugh. “The quarterbacks always want to raise their arms so we had to put special caps on their shoulder pads and special shoulder pads. They were smaller so you could raise your arm and the flexibility was just amazing.”
Brady’s white epaulettes, which also wear his number 12, wouldn’t have lasted this long without constant care. They are therefore reconditioned every year, which means that they are disinfected, the protection of the padding is checked and the plastic is monitored for possible cracks.
In a way, it’s like driving a 1995 car, but with lots of new parts and accessories.
Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham, born a year after Brady started wearing epaulets, said he can relate to Brady’s search for the right fit.
“I currently wear different epaulettes than I was in college. I felt the ones I wore in college were a little too bulky for me,” Stidham said. “As a quarterback you want to have as much mobility as possible – whether it’s up with your neck or your shoulder, whatever that is. So the ones I have here are a bit smaller. “
Brady, 42, said shoulder pad designs have changed dramatically over the course of his playing career. His original pads also represent a connection to Michigan – the alma mater that holds a special place in his heart – and Falk, who has always told players a story that still resonates with Brady.
Falk used to tell players he had 17 Big Ten Championship rings and his favorite was next.
“Tom loved it. So every time I walked into the locker room after practice he’d say, ‘Big Johnny, what’s your best ring?’ And I would say, “Hey, Tom, you know my favorite ring is my next ring. That’s what I’m looking for, my next ring. “
“He picked it up, and every time he wins a Super Bowl, he’ll text me and say, ‘Big Johnny, you taught me that. That’s how I live.'”
For the next ring. In the same old epaulettes.
It has been a good choice for Brady for 25 years.