Every morning in high school, Brady Breeze awoke to his alarm playing the Oregon Duck’s fight song – a motivator to achieve his number one goal.
For Brady, Oregon’s athletic program is more than special; it’s engrained in his DNA. His uncle is Oregon Hall of Fame safety Chad Cota, his aunt Julie Smith (formerly Julie White) ran track for the Ducks, and many other family members are proud alums.
It was through visiting his uncle that he fell in love with football. Growing up, he remembers playing catch with his older brother – suited up in full gear, helmets and all, tackling each other – while waiting in the lobby of NFL stadiums.
“Watching him play in the NFL and then going to see Oregon Duck games with my parents gave me the ultimate dream to go play for the Ducks one day,” says Brady.
Coming out of Central Catholic High School, Brady was a four-star recruit ranked as the 11th best safety in the nation.
He credits his abilities to his father, Jim Breeze, a former Arizona State and Southern Oregon wide receiver. When Brady was young, his father would pause NFL games and teach him the reads that were happening with the offense.
“I feel like I owe everything to him,” he says.
In 2015, he competed at the Opening and blew expectations out of the water. Some scouts were concerned about his speed, but he silenced their doubts when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. In the 7 on 7 competitions, he caught two interceptions.
Yet, throughout high school, he didn’t believe he was talented enough to catch the attention of larger Division 1 programs.
The summer after sophomore year, he sat down with his parents to decide which camps to attend. Brady was set on going to camps at Eastern Washington or Montana, but his parents saw the potential he struggled to notice.
After some convincing, he agreed to go to a few Pac-12 camps simply to see the facilities and learn from their coaches.
“I didn’t think I was going to receive an offer from any of those schools, so I just wanted to go out and have a good time,” Brady says.
He couldn’t have imagined what would ensue.
In June, he and his father boarded a plane headed for Palo Alto to attend a camp at Stanford University.
However, after one day it was clear that, with the small amount of college coaches and large number of players, it would be nearly impossible to receive any recognition. So, Brady skipped the rest of their camp.
Even though he missed the first day, he travelled to Eugene, Oregon for another camp.
The first day was filled with countless drills and 7 on 7 competitions. Brady – along with other defensive backs – worked with coach John Neal, who had his eyes on one player.
“Coach Neal noticed me right away and was constantly coaching me instead of focusing on the other kids,” he says.
During one game, Brady scored a touchdown on offense then turned around and scored a pick six on defense – in three straight series.
“I looked over to the sidelines and all of the coaches were surrounding my parents and grandparents,” says Brady. He couldn’t contain his excitement.
As soon as the game finished, Brady walked over to greet the coaches. Jim Fisher, head recruiting manager, promptly informed Brady that because of his stellar performance that day, the University of Oregon wanted to offer him a full scholarship.
“I used to pray literally every single night to give me the opportunity to be a Duck,” Brady says.
God answered his prayers.
He hugged his grandma, who had tears of happiness in her eyes, and reveled in the moment of a lifelong dream finally coming true.
“Here I was, going to an Oregon camp just so I could see the facilities and hang out with the coaches, but then I walked away with a full scholarship,” says Brady. “I never thought in a million years that I was going to get an offer that day, but all my hard work payed off and I was finally given the chance to play for my dream school.”
His commitment to Oregon didn’t stop other programs from reaching out, however.
Schools like the University of Southern California, UCLA, Alabama, and Notre Dame knew it was pointless to try and recruit him away from Oregon, but they asked him to keep their programs in mind if he ever decided to decommit.
“This was really humbling hearing this from so many schools, but I knew deep down that Oregon was the place for me,” he says.
On June 20, 2016, the day he waited his whole life for finally arrived: move-in day.
Throughout practices, Brady slowly worked his way up the depth chart. His mentality is one of his largest strengths as an athlete – he isn’t afraid to sacrifice himself to make a big hit or a big play. In addition, Brady plays for more than himself.
“Most college players want to just play three years and go to the league, but my goal is to make a lasting impact on this program and lead us to a championship,” he says.
Just one week before the season began, all of his plans came to a halt. During one of the special teams drills, he hyperextended his knee which forced him to miss the next two weeks of practice.
By week 3, he still wasn’t at full speed and the coaches decided to redshirt him.
“I was pretty upset that an injury caused me to redshirt, but it was all part of God’s plan and I had to understand that what He was doing was for the better,” Brady says. “The way the season turned out, I realized God really was deciding that last year would be the perfect year for me to redshirt.”
There is something very different about Brady Breeze: he is not just a player for Oregon, but also a lifelong fan. Because of this, he knows how much it will mean if Oregon brings back the old physical defense to form a Gang Green 2.0 and goes on to win the national championship.
It’s a challenge, but Brady is determined – not just for his younger self, but for every Duck fan across the country.
Brady’s Advice: Some advice I have for young players who look up to me is to never doubt yourself. I remember growing up I used to have people tell me I was never good enough to do this or that but I knew deep down that if I worked hard enough, I would be able to play for the Ducks someday. As most athletes know, it’s not an easy journey but that feeling of accomplishment when everyone was doubting you, is one of the greatest feelings a person can have. Don’t ever let someone telling you you’re not good enough, just use their doubts as motivation. Keep praying and working hard and God will make sure He gives you the best shot possible.