Yes, Tom is her uncle. But Maya Brady has carved out her own path to softball stardom

OKLAHOMA CITY — Maya Brady was on the bus to her first Women’s College World Series three years ago when the UCLA shortstop noticed her mother, Maureen, had slipped her a handwritten note.

Soak in this moment, it read — you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.

“That was the first time I realized how special it was that we got to play on the same field,” Maya, who recalls bawling from the back of the bus, said. “It was just so special. One of my favorite memories with me and my mom.”

Long before Maya’s uncle Tom Brady won seven Super Bowls to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom’s older sister Maureen was the star athlete of the Brady family.

Over four years pitching for Hillsdale High School (San Mateo, Calif.), Maureen went 116-9. She tossed 69 shutouts, 29 no-hitters and 14 perfect games in her high school career. She graduated in 1991 and was inducted into her high school hall of fame in 2018.

Maureen then went on to play for Fresno State from 1992 to 1995 and twice led the Bulldogs to the WCWS.

In 1994, she became an All-American and finished the year with a 0.98 ERA. She led the nation with 36 victories and propelled Fresno State to Oklahoma City. There, she beat UCLA in the WCWS opener with a complete-game shutout, as Fresno State scored the winning run in the final inning to pull out the victory. The Bulldogs, however, didn’t score another run that season and were eliminated two games later.

These days, Maya is carrying on the Brady family tradition of athletic excellence. She ranks second all-time at UCLA with 71 career home runs. She’s also a three-time All-American and a back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Year. Maya is batting a team-best .436 with 17 home runs in her final season with the Bruins.

“It’s an honor to carry on the legacy of the Brady name,” Maya said. “My family is just everything to me.”

Maya will attempt to extend that legacy, as she leads the fourth-seeded Bruins into Sunday’s elimination game against eighth-seeded Stanford (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+).

“I’m so happy for Maya that she gets to have the same experience,” Maureen told ESPN. “I remember playing on this field and what it feels like, and so I’m just so thankful and grateful that she gets to have those same feelings and same memories and same experience. … Because it’s something that you just never forget.”

Maya can’t forget how her mom helped her get to this point. Maureen raised Maya and her younger sister, Hannah — who soon will head to Tom’s alma mater, Michigan, to play volleyball — as a single mom.

Despite working as a traveling nurse, Maureen made sure her daughters had the same opportunities in sports that she, Tom and their sisters Nancy and Julie had growing up. Nancy played softball for Cal. Julie played soccer at Saint Mary’s — and later married Boston Red Sox World Series champion first baseman Kevin Youkilis, adding more athletic prowess to the family.

“I fell in love with softball at 5 years old,” Maureen said. “I just wanted to play softball all the time. … Maya was the same way.”

Maya started playing softball earlier than her mom, at 4 years old. As Maya got older, Maureen drove her more than three hours on weekends to softball games and tournaments.

“She made a lot of sacrifices and stretched herself probably too thin sometimes,” Maya said. “But she really made me and my sister’s lives just so much better … and she didn’t have to make those sacrifices.”

Those sacrifices have paid off for Maya, who has developed her own Brady brand as one of the biggest names in softball. She has name, image and likeness deals with American Eagle, Champion and Dove, as well as several other companies.

After college, Maya wants to continue competing. She hopes to follow in her mom’s footsteps further and play for Team USA softball at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; before enrolling at Fresno State, Maureen played for the 1991 U.S. Junior Olympic team.

“Sports is just a huge part of our family and we’re all very competitive,” Maya said. “It gives us so much joy. Off the field we’re all very nice, sweet people. Once we get on the field, it feeds that other side of us that is super competitive.”

With her lofty goals, Maya admitted having the Brady surname comes with immense expectations and attention. But Tom — who she considers a “father figure” — has helped her embrace all of it.

“I have an amazing relationship with my uncle,” she said. “And I think it takes that pressure off because I know at the end of the day, if I don’t meet the standards of what people think I should do, he doesn’t care. To me, that’s all that matters.”

Tom made the Brady name famous. But Maureen launched the Brady sports legacy. Three decades later, her daughter can add even more to it.

“I’m so proud and happy for her,” Maureen said. “Winning the national championship with this team would be absolutely the cherry on top.”

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