Junior running back Chance Brady’s success this season was in many ways unprecedented for the Jumbos. His accolades, to start, are both prestigious and numerous. He is the first Tufts player to win NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year in the 21st century, the first since 2008 to make the New England Football Writers All-New England College Division Team and the first since 2010 to receive the New England Football Writers’ Gold Helmet Award.
Despite all of Brady’s awards, coach Jay Civetti is most proud of his running back’s loyalty and selflessness. Brady appreciates the recognition but is the first to point out how much of a product he is of his offensive line.
“Those are my boys,” Brady said. “They are the ones keeping me alive. They honestly do 90 percent of the work when it comes to getting those rushing stats. A lot of the love falls on me, but if they have a bad game, I have a bad game. If they have a good game, I have a good game. It’s in complete correlation.”
Brady posted a league-leading 975 rushing yards along with 11 touchdowns and led Tufts to its best finish (6-2) since 2001. He finished with the second most yards from scrimmage in the NESCAC. A true breakout season in every sense of the word, Brady’s only regret is that he did not get to 1,000 yards.
“I was 25 yards short this year, and it hurts because, it’s not even actually for me, but it’s for my linemen,” Brady said. “Having a 1000-yard rusher is like a status symbol for a line.”
Brady was not always the football prodigy he is now. He was no stranger to rebuilding before coming to play at Tufts. He came into Haverhill High School as a 5-foot-7-inch, 120-pound linebacker and played junior varsity his first year. He fell in love with the gym that season, and as a result of rigorous strength, agility and speed training, he made the varsity team as a sophomore linebacker. Most of his peers were still on junior varsity, so Brady successfully petitioned his coach to let him play junior varsity on Sundays rather than practice with the varsity team, on the condition that he play running back.
Although Brady admits that defenses have it better in terms of hitting versus getting hit, Brady fell in love with the end-zone and permanently switched to running back for his junior season, when he won the starting job outright and ran with it. Haverhill went winless in Brady’s first and second years, continuing a 32-game losing streak, but in Brady’s first start at running back, the team snapped this streak.
“I’ve just been really lucky to enter programs that are right in the process of making the change,” Brady said. “Having that high school experience really made it possible for me to conceptualize what it would be like when Tufts turned it around. It’s not like we were just going to go to the dumps and stay there. I knew there was a change coming … I wanted to be a part of it, and coach Civetti really sold it to me.”
Holy Cross, Wesleyan, Trinity and Tufts all recruited Brady out of Haverhill, and he agonized over the decision. In the end, Brady followed his mother’s advice to seek the greatest educational opportunity and a coach that Brady could learn the most from about development as a player and as a man. Civetti has overseen Brady’s growth since his first year at Tufts, and the relationship has been beneficial to both.
“He’s changed, but he’s not a different person,” Civetti said. “He’s matured, but he’s still a kid. He’s responsible, but he can still have that look in his eye like you’re not totally sure. The things that haven’t changed with him are his consistency, his loyalty to the team and me and the coaches, and his passion for football. His effort, his attitude and his toughness are things that make him unique.”
Senior co-captain linebacker Matt McCormack highlighted Brady’s fearlessness as the trait that is the most characteristic of his teammate. On the field, McCormack recalls a particularly tough game-clinching play when Brady buried his head and charged through a wall of defenders to earn a first down on fourth-and-2. McCormack, who lives off campus with Brady, said that he is an extremely positive individual who likes to joke around but who also holds firm to his convictions no matter the obstacle.
Brady is the second oldest of four boys, and he credits his two younger brothers, Myles and Deryk, with keeping him on the “straight and narrow” because he does not want to disappoint them and be a bad role model.
His mother, Kim Brady, is his rock. She was originally opposed to Brady playing football for fear of serious injury but has since come around after seeing the purpose it has given Brady and the doors it has opened for him.
“[My mom] is the biggest supporter of football by far,” Brady said. “[She sees] all the [positive impacts] that football has [had on] my life: having me in the gym 24/7 instead of out being an idiot, having me practice long hours so when I get home I just want to do my homework and go to bed. She loves it. She’s at every single game, even the super far away games. She’s my biggest fan. Anytime I have a breakdown or need someone to talk to, she is always there. I love that woman with all my heart.”
The next steps for Brady are continuing his studies in history and entrepreneurial leadership, working with his offensive line to get past 1,000 yards rushing next season and helping Tufts win a NESCAC championship.