Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Penn State Jim Gehman
Jet fans booing the team's first-round pick during the NFL Draft was a Radio City Music Hall tradition nearly on par with watching the high-stepping Rockettes. It happened numerous times over the years, including when New York selected Penn State tight end Kyle Brady ninth overall in 1995.
"You put so much work into getting to that day," Brady said. "So, when your dream and hope of being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft comes true, it didn't really matter to me genuinely that they were booing. My attitude was, well, I'll just have to come here and do my best to win them over. Hopefully with some team success and some individual success."
There may have been a stray boo coming from Cleveland, as well.
"I fully expected to be drafted by the Bill Belichick-coached Cleveland Browns with the 10th pick," Brady said. "Coach Belichick had flown to (Penn State) with it seemed like their whole staff. They worked out (quarterback) Kerry Collins and myself because both of us were projected first-rounders.
"They had a known need at tight end. And it went as far as a couple days before the draft, the equipment manager for the Browns called the Penn State equipment manager and asked for my helmet size, my shoe size, just assuming that no one prior to them was going to take me off the board."
As a rookie, Brady joined two other tight ends: Johnny Mitchell, who was in his fourth season; and Fred Baxter, who was in his third. However, there was something missing.
"I didn't even have a tight end coach my first year, someone watching me consistently on the field and giving me feedback as to what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong. That was pretty surprising to me," Brady said.
What was less surprising is that after posting a 3-13 record in 1995 and a 1-15 mark the following year, the Jets made a change. Head coach Rich Kotite was replaced by two-time Super Bowl champion, Bill Parcells.
"To me, it was a breath of fresh air. I mean, we were all tired of losing. I had never been on a losing football program before. My high school team had always had a lot of success. At Penn State, we not only never had a losing season, but most years we were in the top 10 to 15 in the country. My senior year, we were undefeated," Brady said.
"So, I had never been on a team that struggled so mightily as those first two years Jets teams. I had always played for tough, straight, disciplinarian head coaches. My high school coach was a former Marine. And Joe Paterno was that way, too. He ran a really tight ship at Penn State. You were going to do things his way.
"And that's exactly the way Parcells was. He had been a winner everywhere he was - with the Giants and then after that with the Patriots. I was really looking forward to it even though I knew it'd be challenging because I heard how tough of a coach he was to play for. But like I said, I was used to that. And pretty much true to my expectations and all of our expectations, he came in and started changing the culture right away."
After four seasons with the Jets from 1995-98, Brady went on to play eight seasons for Jacksonville and one season for New England. Being coached Parcells, Tom Coughlin with the Jaguars, Bill Belichick with the Patriots, and Paterno at Penn State, offered Brady exceptionally rare experiences.
"I didn't make multiple Pro Bowls or win multiple Super Bowls, but I had the privilege of playing for some of the most unique and most renowned and best coaches in the history of the game at the college and pro level," Brady said. "It was an amazing experience. There are tremendous amounts of commonalities between how they coach, how they run a program. Very high accountability. Very high emphasis on attention to detail. They understood that in the NFL, that's the way it was. That's the culture. And they all taught tremendous life lessons."
Brady relied on those life lessons when contemplating what he'd do after football. During two off-seasons, he worked on TV as an NFL Europe game analyst. In other off-seasons, he learned how to fly an airplane and went on to earn a commercial pilot license.
"My last full season was 2007, and the world was going to hell in a handbasket, so to speak, financially speaking. The equities markets were in a freefall, people were losing their jobs," Brady said. "A lot of times, people will say, 'What marketable skills do you have as an athlete?' I think you have a lot of them. Understanding how to work as a team, work ethic, understanding self-sacrifice and discipline. But as far as more tangible ones, you don't always necessarily have a lot of them.
"So, I thought one of the best things for me to do is get a lot of education and figure out what playing field I want to go out onto next. I went into finance initially and got my certified financial planner designation. Still, though, at that time the jobs market wasn't great and I wasn't absolutely positive that I wanted to be in financial planning for good.
"I'd taken a law school admission test in 2005. I'd heard how great a legal education was and how many things you could do with it. So, I thought I have nothing set in stone that I'm really dying to do and I haven't found my niche or passion, why don't I just go ahead and do that? So, I took the next three years and went to law school."
Enrolling in the Florida Coastal School of Law in 2010, aside from game-planning for opponents while playing in the NFL, this was the first time Brady had been in a classroom since graduating from Penn State 15 years earlier.
"I remember my first semester sitting in the law library studying case after case, pouring over hundreds of pages of Supreme Court decisions and thinking, 'Wait a minute. Do I really want to do this for the next three years?' I was really stewing over that," Brady said. "And I just thought, 'Well, if I can make it through 18 training camps - five Joe Paterno training camps, 13 in the NFL, of which maybe 10 were for coaches like Belichick, Parcells, and Coughlin, this is not too difficult for me. I can do this.'
"And now in hindsight, I'm really glad I did do it. It did give me the awareness and the wherewithal to go into the world. One thing I've heard, that with a law degree, it helps you understand how the world works. And in that respect, it really does."
Brady makes his home in a Jacksonville beach community with his wife, Kristi, and their children: Kellen, Brooke, and Blair.
He owns a financing company, Willow Falls LLC, which provides short-term bridge capital funding to builders and developers primarily in northeast Florida.
"The confidence to do that came from a combination of not only studying finance, but also studying law," said Brady, who is also affiliated with the St. Augustine law firm, Ginn & Patrou, concentrating on estate planning and real estate law. "And making sure to know how to properly secure the transactions that you enter through the means or mortgages and promissory notes. So, I've taken a different approach to real estate in the area of finance."