When future NFL legend Tom Brady was struggling to earn playing time during his first couple of seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, even he likely did not foresee that a rise to stardom was on the horizon.
The quarterback redshirted his first year, only to follow that campaign by throwing just five passes during his extremely limited time on the football field in year two.
At one point, Brady went to Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines’ head coach then, and asked if he could be released from the team. At the time, NCAA rules stated that a player who was granted a release could then transfer to a different school.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, the former coach recalled the warning he gave the quarterback when Brady told him that he wanted out.
“It’ll be the biggest mistake of your life,” Carr said he told Brady. “You came here to be the best. You came here because of the great competition. … If you walk away now, you’ll always wish you had stayed and tried to compete. You’ll always wonder what would have happened if you stayed.”
Carr then advised Brady to mull the decision over by at least sleeping on it. But the coach also made it clear that he would not stand in Brady’s way if he truly wanted to leave.
Carr’s message appeared to have resonated with the young quarterback, as Brady did ultimately inform him that he wanted to remain in Ann Arbor.
“I’m staying,” he said. “And I’m going to prove to you I am a great quarterback.”
Brady ended up having a standout career at Michigan. Perhaps the highlight of his college football career happened in 2000, when the Wolverines defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide by one point in an overtime thriller in the Orange Bowl.
But now, the transfer portal has created an entirely new world across the college football landscape. Approximately 1,500 players opted to enter the portal this week alone. For many of those players, they are eligible to play during the 2024 season.
Not every player that goes into the portal is seeking to transfer simply because they want to leave; some were pushed out of their programs. Colorado coach Deion Sanders took an unconventional approach to the portal this past offseason, and even encouraged some players to go into the portal.
The rise of name, image and likeness (NIL) also certainly plays a role now in recruiting and retaining key athletes — something that was not an option when Brady was playing at the collegiate level a couple of decades ago.
The pace at which players move through the portal has also been widely discussed. Players and coaches are trying to find the best fit, in what can at times look like organized chaos.
Michigan did earn a split national championship during Brady’s tenure — although he was buried on the depth chart at the time and only saw a small amount of action. Quarterback Brian Griese led the Wolverines to an undefeated 1997 campaign, resulting in the shared national title. Brady completed 12 of his 15 pass attempts that season.
Brady took over the starting quarterback duties in his junior year. He famously was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round and went on to have one of the most storied careers in league history.