The football that Tom Brady threw to complete his first touchdown pass in the NFL is going up for auction with Lelands on Sunday.
It is a special piece of sports history that has been with the vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous, because the game Oct. 14, 2001, when the New England Patriots played the San Diego Chargers.
The vendor grew up in Rhode Island and has gone into Patriots games since the late 1970s along with his family. He and three of his high school buddies first bought season tickets in 1992 as school students and have kept the tickets for this day.
He is a loyal fan of the Patriots and jokes that his wife almost divorced him 100 times because of how devoted he was on the Sunday matches and tailgates with buddies.
In the beginning, the tailgates were what the group of buddies looked forward to because the Patriots went 2-14 in 1992 and 5-11 in 1993. The team had improved from the 2001 season, but the 25 to 30 friends still enjoyed the tailgate.
On this autumn day in October, the seller made his way to Lot 11 right if the parking lot started in the morning. Finally they spread to their respective chairs and the vendor made his way down close to the area in the south end zone.
I caught a lot of balls in that stadium because he would miss field goals."
The match was only the next one Brady started after Drew Bledsoe was hurt in the second game of the season from the New York Jets, therefore most Patriots fans did not have high expectations for Brady. By the instant Bledsoe was hurt, however, the seller tried to convince his friends Brady was going to be the guy going forward, but he met with much resistance from his audience.
Brady had gone two games without throwing a touchdown since the starter, and there was 4:01 left in the second quarter with New England and San Diego tied at 3 apiece.
The Patriots were driving in the San Diego 21-yard line when Brady took the snap, looked for Terry Glenn the whole play and threw a dart to him at the front of the end zone. Glenn threw his arms in the air and celebrated with his teammates. He then made his way close to the back of the end zone and then threw the ball to the crowd.
"This was a melee. I stood up on my chair, I pushed my friend to my left," the vendor said. "The other two men, I handed them my beer at a gentle way. I jumped up, tussled with a bunch of other fans around me and I came back with the ball."
At the moment, it was only another soccer. He was excited he had caught the ball and pleased to find , at age 29, he had hands out of his high school football days.
It wasn't until he moved to the postgame tailgate, when he opened his trunk to show the soccer off to his friends, that one of them advised him that it was Brady's first touchdown.
He also kept the ball in a safe place in his home and even played with a very cautious game of catch with the football in the backyard. It was not until the conclusion of the 2003 season, when New England beat the Carolina Panthers from the Super Bowl, the vendor knew that he had something special.
The Patriots have lost the Super Bowl only once when the seller took a picture of the ball, and they had been 0-2 in the two games when he did not.
"I had been out of town for the Philly game [at 2017], and I just missed the bank closing for the Giants game [in 2007]," the seller said. "I'd kids' sports and just could not get there until the bank closed. That's what caused the David Tyree helmet catch, since I couldn't take a photo of the ball."
As time passed, and with the seller's kids expressing interest in keeping the ball in the household, they determined it was time to move on and allow somebody else to enjoy this piece of sports history.
Lelands has photo-verified the football based on writing and markers on the soccer that was specific to the Patriots in the moment. As Glenn celebrated at the end zone, a photographer captured the moment using Glenn carrying the football with all the laces out and the markings clearly shown. There are four major points which were identified on the chunk. The Patriots wrote"PATS" in marker on one side of the ball close to the laces, two dots towards the end of the laces, the letters"L" and"N" on one side and a two-digit number on the opposite side identifying which game ball it was to that day.
"You may see the precise marks where the writing on the ball in the photograph matches the chunk that we are about to offer," Lelands manager of acquisitions Jordan Gilroy stated. "It's incredible that there was a photographer that near him at that moment in time. Everything in that scenario was ideal, and we definitely did due diligence to be certain that it is one."
Lelands formerly sold the infamous football from the Patriots' AFC Championship Game defeat of the Colts in 2014, after which New England was accused of deflating footballs to acquire an edge.
Gilroy and the seller do not have a realistic gauge for the sum that ball could deliver in, but he says it isn't in the same dialog as the Deflategate ball.
Lelands offered an autographed Tom Brady Panini Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket beginner card for $2.25 million in April, which broke the record for its highest-selling football card.
That card was graded as an 8.5, and the auction house now has the exact same card rated as a 9 up for auction on Sunday as well. There are only seven of these cards graded as a 9, so the anticipation is that this card will eclipse the $2.25 million price tag from April.
As uncommon as that card is, this football is a real one of one and can't be reproduced or re-created.
"For Tom Brady's football to be accessible and owned by an ordinary fan is unbelievable," Gilroy said. "It's a piece of football history, and I believe 10, 20, 30 years from today and Brady's heritage is remembered even more, such as Michael Jordan is currently, it's just going to rise in value. The fact that this chunk is most likely going into a personal collection and may not see the light of day again, it may be the last time it sells."
The seller hasn't thought much about what might happen if Brady called him to try to put the ball into his personal collection, and he doesn't have an expectation for what the chunk would bring at auction when it ends on June 4.
Because he's a loyal Patriots fan and the ball means so much to himthe seller wants only it is going to go to the right fan.
"Someone that has a location that may put it on their mantel, tell the story of how they got the ball," the vendor said. "My entire purpose is to get it in the ideal enthusiast's hands which will delight in telling their loved ones and friends they have the ball. It's a slice of history you never see, but some of these great pieces of history need to be in the fans' hands, therefore I want to get it to the ideal person that will love it the way I have."