SAN MATEO, Calif. — It could be Boston College High School on Morrissey Boulevard or Xaverian Brothers in Westwood. It could be Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury or Archbishop Williams in Braintree.
Except for the trophy case.
Except for the plaques on the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
It’s there that you see that this is not your ordinary Catholic high school. It is there that you see photos of two of the greatest athletes of all time. It is there that you see Tom Brady. And Barry Bonds.
I flew to San Francisco to cover the Red Sox series against the Oakland A’s, but that plan blew up Monday when the Deflategate sanctions were levied by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It is one of the biggest sports stories of our lifetime and it is our only topic for the foreseeable future. It gives the Red Sox freedom to sink into the basement of the AL East while no one is looking.
Junipero Serra High School was founded in 1944. Run by diocesan priests of San Francisco, the school’s core mission is developing young men of “faith, wisdom, service, community, and leadership.’’ The building where Tommy Brady (that’s what they call him here) matriculated was built in 1952 and hasn’t changed much since Brady graduated 20 years ago.
The students and staff at Serra are much like folks back in New England: They believe in Brady.
“I support Tom through this tough time,’’ says Serra athletic director Dean Ayoob, who was a senior at Serra when Tommy was a freshman.
Ayoob is one of four brothers who graduated from Serra, and he takes great pride in a school that has sculpted thousands of young souls and produced multiple professional athletes, including two of the greatest of all time.
There are no statues dedicated to Brady and Bonds, but the superstars are present. Bonds’s jersey hangs — with those of other Serra Padre stars who made it to the bigs — from the ceiling of the clubhouse at the high school baseball field.
The field is a slugger’s dream. It’s 290 feet down the line in left, 298 in right, and prevailing winds are friendly to righty hitters. It is where Tommy Brady was a good enough catcher to be drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1995.
Brady’s 2005 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year cover is featured in the Serra trophy case (donated by the class of ’77) just outside the school’s main office. Adjacent to the SI cover, there’s a framed photo of Brady speaking at Serra’s annual Fund a Dream Scholarship benefit in 2012. That was the same night that the Serra football field was renamed “Brady Family Stadium.’’
“We wanted to call it ‘Tom Brady Stadium,’ but Tom insisted on crediting his entire family,’’ says Ayoob. “That’s the kind of guy he is.’’
One of Brady’s spiritual mentors is the Rev. Joe Bradley, a former president of Junipero Serra who served as school chaplain for 17 years.
“I was assigned to Serra in Tommy’s senior year,’’ says Father Joe. “That’s when I got to know him. The Bradys are an awesome family. What you see is what you get. They are just salt-of-the-earth people.
“What I respect more about Tommy than anything else is that when he comes home to San Mateo, he’ll stop in at Serra and he’s Tommy. That’s never changed.’’
Father Joe hasn’t heard from Brady since all the bad stuff came down in the last week.
“I watched a little bit of the coverage,’’ says the soft-spoken priest. “I saw ‘The Sports Reporters’ on Sunday when I didn’t have the early Mass.
“It’s been . . . I know Tommy. He’s incredibly generous with his time. He’s called our football team before going out for his own games. He’s just Tommy. He hasn’t changed. It’s for real.”
Brady is a big believer in the mission of Junipero Serra. When he was honored in 2012, Brady said the school “shaped my character as a young man . . . helping me develop into the person I am . . . Serra grads are meant to make a change for the good.’’
Bradley is not without sin. He recently wrote a book, “The Four Gifts,’’ and the jacket explains that Father Joe “is known for thought-provoking sermons on controversial topics ranging from his own mistakes and former drug use, to immigration and the clergy abuse scandals.’’
In his book, Bradley writes extensively about “coming clean.’’ Chapter 18 is titled, “Honest admissions.’’
Does Father Joe think Brady is in trouble?
“I don’t know all the protocols of professional football, but I trust Tommy,’’ says the priest. “When I hear all this, I go back to the roots of the Tommy that I know and that I trust.’’
Is he confident that Brady will be vindicated?
“I don’t want to duck that, but honest to God, I haven’t read the report or any of that,” he says. “I don’t want to sound naive. I see him out there. I feel for him. I feel for his family.’’
Understood. For those of us who have watched Brady for 15 years, it is hard not to share this sentiment.