Dan Frisella shouted at the TV plenty on Sunday.
His angst was tied to Tom Brady.
Long before becoming the director of educational and pupil services for the Nevada Joint Union High School District, Frisella and Brady were running mates in the Bay Area. They’ve known each other since before they could run and they remain friends.
Frisella played on the offensive line at Serra High School in San Mateo. He blocked for Brady in the early 1990s, when Tom went by Tommy and wasn’t deemed “Tom Terrific” just yet. The lanky Brady had a strong arm then, though he was about as mobile as a blocking sled, the joke went those days.
But Brady had uncommon poise and leadership then, Frisella said. On Sunday at the Auburn home of David Smiley, another Serra grad who knows Brady, Frisella watched Brady engineer the New England Patriots’ 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Frisella’s mother, Pam, and Brady’s mother, Galynn, have been close friends “since we were in diapers,” Frisella said from his Grass Valley office Monday, a photo of Brady with the Frisella family within reach.
Nobody could imagine anyone having the success Tommy’s had. Couldn’t imagine him becoming the next Joe Montana. We all knew he had a cannon arm, that he was smart, incredibly disciplined and focused. And when we see each other, we pick up where we left off.
Dan Frisella, on his friend Tom Brady
“I caught the game, yeah,” Frisella said, laughing. “Unbelievable. To watch him, it’s fun, it’s beautiful, masterful, at the top of his game, in his element. It was fulfilling what he was meant to do and what he’s done his whole career. And at this point of his career, I’m proud and super happy he had his family there.”
Brady’s mother attended her first game of the season Sunday in Houston. She had been too ill from cancer treatments to travel. Brady said he was going to compete for her. Frisella, thousands of miles away, felt great empathy for Galynn. He’s known her all his life.
“Our moms are close and they talk regularly and had lunch a week or two ago,” Frisella said.
The Brady-Frisella bond grew amid tragedy.
On New Year’s Day 1977, Frisella’s father, Danny, a major-league pitcher, died in a dune buggy accident in Arizona. Pam was seven months pregnant with Dan. He was born March 4 on what would have been his father’s 31st birthday.
The Brady and Frisella families spent a lot of time together in the Peninsula. There were birthday parties and sporting events, including games at Serra’s baseball field that bears the name of Dan’s father, a star for Serra in the early 1960s.
“I just shot a picture to a buddy from an early birthday party with Tommy,” Frisella said. “A lot of memories, sports, and being kids in high school, trying to figure things out.”
Frisella said he admires how Brady remains loyal to his roots. In August, Serra football coach Patrick Walsh told Brady about a shooting that resonated from the Bay Area to the Valley. Calvin Riley, 20, was randomly shot and killed in San Francisco while playing “Pokémon Go”. He played baseball at Serra and San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. Brady composed a handwritten two-page letter that was delivered to the Riley family.
To watch him, it’s fun, it’s beautiful, masterful, at the top of his game, in his element. It was fulfilling what he was meant to do and what he’s done his whole career. And at this point of his career, I’m proud and super happy he had his family there.
Dan Frisella, on his friend Tom Brady
“He’s still the same guy,” Frisella said of Brady. “The letter he wrote to that family? That’s Tommy. ... Nobody could imagine anyone having the success Tommy’s had. Couldn’t imagine him becoming the next Joe Montana. We all knew he had a cannon arm, that he was smart, incredibly disciplined and focused. And when we see each other, we pick up where we left off.”
Brady and Frisella each have three children. Brady’s bunch attended the Super Bowl. Frisella’s brood went with him to Auburn to watch.
“My oldest (Lucas) is old enough at 8 to get into the game,” Frisella said. “The 6-year-old (Nico) was in and out of the game. The 3-year-old (Nolan) was trying to tackle people during the game.”
Frisella said he champions sports and activities when he visits Nevada Union and Bear River high schools.
“Get involved, 100 percent,” he said. “That’s where people find their families. It’s incredibly important to develop character and how to learn to work, to collaborate, understanding strengths and weaknesses, understanding how to be a role player, a position player. Sports and life are one and the same.”