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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Football Gifts Tom Brady a Rare Trip Home

Despite logging 377 NFL games over the past 23 years, Tom Brady has only once played back in the town where he grew up and against the team he fell in love with as a kid, so he's excited for a second opportunity this weekend

As Tom Brady has followed his lifelong passion for football, the game has gradually taken him farther and farther from his home in San Mateo, California, and only rarely has it seen fit to take him back. That makes The Tampa Bay Buccaneers road game against the San Francisco Giants this weekend a particularly special trip for the 45-year-old quarterback.

Over the course of 23 NFL seasons, Brady has played in 377 games, playoffs included, and amazingly only one of them was back in the Bay area where he cut his teeth on San Francisco 49ers games at Candlestick Park and idolized Joe Montana and Steve Young. He has made it to an NFL-record 10 Super Bowls and they have been played in seven different states, but not one of them was set in California, let alone his hometown.

"Yeah, it's pretty unique," said Brady, who led the New England Patriots to a 30-17 win over Chip Kelly's 49ers at Levi's Stadium in 2016. "For as long as I've played to have one experience there, and it was a great one, too. We played out there, it was a rainy day, it was 20-16, we had a really good football team and I had a lot of friends and family in the crowd. I ran out for pregame warmup and I remember Chip Kelly coming over and he was like, 'Damn, it's a home game for you.' And it really was."

Because he played the first 20 seasons of his career in the NFC, most if it after the 2002 expansion and realignment led to a new scheduling format that included rotating divisional matchups. The Patriots didn't play the 49ers in his first two seasons before that realignment and the rotation didn't bring around a trip to San Francisco until 2008. As luck would have it, that is the only season in his career in which he has missed significant time due to injury, as he suffered a torn ACL in the season opener, just four weeks before the Patriots were scheduled to head to California.

That meant Brady missed his one shot at playing in the stadium where he says he fell in love with football.

"We'd sit up there in the nosebleeds. We had four tickets – my mom and dad would go, I would usually go and then one of my sisters would go. I was lucky to grow up in the Bay area at that time. It was just a great time. There were so many great players, it was a great era of football and I loved the 49ers. I loved them through college, and then when they skipped over me six times [in the 2000 draft] I started hating the 49ers, and that's just the way it went down. I never got a chance to go out there. I was supposed to go out there in '08 and we had it all set up. We were talking all offseason, my first time going out there, and then I tore my ACL in Week One. So I had to wait another eight years; we went to the new stadium, so I never even got to play in Candlestick. And then [I] had the one experience, which was really fun. It was just great after the game, it was nice for my parents not to have to travel and go to a game for once. It was nice to go to them."

Brady later repeated – with a smile – that he is no longer a 49ers fan. But he is clearly still very fond of the community in which he grew up, the family members that still live there and the friends he made along the way. He says he still considers himself a 'California kid,' and he can easily rattle off the current fortunes of his former football team at Juníper Serra High School and its head coach, Patrick Walsh. Of course, some of those old friends are also fond of telling stories from Brady's childhood. One reported that he used to run as if he was carrying a piano on his back, and Brady said nothing much has changed.

"I had so many friends growing up there," said Brady. "Serra was a great baseball school and I loved baseball. I started playing football and fell in love with football because of the camaraderie of it all. I was always the kid that was trying to prove myself to everyone. There was one thing in sports that…I was really good basically at a lot of sports. I was really good in baseball, I threw the ball well, I hit the ball really well. I was really good in golf. I was good in…any sport I was really good at. I'm good at ping point, I'm good at darts. I just can't run, and I can't jump. So running and jumping are a problem. So I always tried to work hard at those things."

Brady said he's looking forward to reconnecting with some relatives he hasn't seen in quite a while during the trip, and if he wants to visit his parents at their home he won't need to ask for directions. They still live in the same house in which Brady grew up. Of course the weekend back home isn't just a social visit; it's also a business trip and Brady is not about to forget that.

"It will be great to go home and see a lot of people that I probably haven't seen in a long time, my aunts and uncles, and try to go win a football game," he said. "I was just a kid growing up like all of us were, trying to have some fun. And here I am many years later going back. I'm going to try to go home and give people what they want, so that's what we'll try to do."

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 14 practice at AdventHealth Training Center.

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