His coaches at Michigan underestimated him.
Thirty-two NFL teams passed on him, over and over.
But Purcell’s Jim Fleming knew Tom Brady had what it takes — to play professional baseball.
Fleming, a former University of Oklahoma baseball assistant coach and Purcell, Okla., resident, was the West Coast cross checker in the Montreal Expos scouting department in 1995 when a tall, left-handed-hitting catcher from San Mateo, Calif., caught his eye.
The Expos selected Brady with the 507th overall pick (18th round) in the June amateur draft the summer before his freshman year at Michigan. You’d think that might makes Brady’s wait in the 2000 NFL Draft seem short, but it sure didn’t feel that way.
Fleming says Brady would have gone higher if he wasn’t headed to Ann Arbor.
“I’d say five, eix, seven — around there,” Fleming told MLB.com reporter Joe Frisaro in this story. “We said he got ino the teens, we’d take a shot. We were going to spend a pick (in the first 10 rounds) on him, because there was so much uncertainty on him.”
Brady’s bat speed, power potential and throwing arm made him a baseball prospect. He came from the same Junipero Serra High School program that produced Barry Bonds and Gregg Jefferies.
“We took him down a little lower and worked with him over the course of the summer,” Fleming told MLB.com. “I think we got him to consider baseball, but in the end his heart was in football.”
Fleming kept tabs on Brady through college in hopes he’d change his mind. Lloyd Carr and Drew Henson did their best to help. He never did.
Today, Fleming is the Miami Marlins’ special assistant to the president of baseball operations. Our man Ryan Aber talked to him for a Collected Wisdom, a regular Sunday feature in which sports figures share their world view, influences and thoughts.
As for Brady, he’ll be in Indianapolis Sunday, reminding a bunch of NFL scouts what they’re missing.