The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame game is upon us once again, marking a chance for veterans to shake off the rust for a few plays and rookies to shine just steps away from the game’s ultimate goal.
For one rookie in 2000, that dazzling career began with a strong showing in the Hall of Fame game.
Yes, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
He made his NFL preseason debut in the 2000 Hall of Fame game, performing mop-up duty late in the game as the understudy for backups Michael Bishop, John Friesz, and starter Drew Bledsoe.
After Bledsoe appeared for just three plays on the game’s opening series, Bishop thrived. The second-year quarterback passed and rushed for a touchdown in a 20-0 dismantling of the San Francisco 49ers — Brady’s childhood team.
Brady, the seventh quarterback drafted in 2000 was looking to prove a point to a team that decided to take another QB — Hofstra’s Giovanni Carmazzi — over him.
In the ‘Brady 6’ documentary, which details this game as a momentous ‘passing-of-the-torch’ occasion, Bill Belichick was confident he had chosen the right quarterback while 49ers coach Steve Mariucci could see the doubt creeping into Carmazzi’s mind.
On the same weekend as 49ers legend and NFL great Joe Montana’s Hall-of-Fame induction, Brady’s life in the NFL began in a nonchalant fashion.
It Was a Big Game For Brady
Brady showed enough during the 2000 preseason to earn a roster spot for the regular season as the fourth quarterback. But his football knowledge impressed even earlier.
Ahead of training camp that year, Brady was the lone rookie quarterback among the group of four, yet refrained from asking rookie questions. In a 2017 interview with the Boston Globe, then-backup John Friesz recalled how he “knew right then he was special. I was scratching my head at how advanced he was before he even stepped onto the practice field.”
The article goes on to explain how, at Michigan, players would often go to Brady on the sidelines if they had questions and didn’t want to ask a coach.
Brady only dressed for a few games in 2000, appearing as the backup in a Thanksgiving Day blowout loss at Detroit and completing just one of three passes. But the budding star had already gone from an afterthought to an immediate backup in just over half a season.
In a stunning, unexpected turn of events, Brady would lift a Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl MVP only a season after his inglorious NFL debut.
Where Stars are Born
Brady is not the only star to make a landmark debut in the Hall of Fame game. Fellow Patriots’ great John Hannah did so in 1973, Rodney Harrison debuted for the San Diego Chargers in 1994, Hines Ward with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998, and Sean Taylor with the Washington Redskins in 2004.
Most recently, it was Odell Beckham Jr who used the Hall of Fame game as his preseason debut back in 2014.
Another debut of sorts was Steve Young, in his second NFL season, making his first appearance for the 49ers in the 1987 Hall of Fame game. Young was deemed a bust by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was traded to the 49ers after the Bucs drafted Vinny Testaverde.