Denver Tom Brady knows better than to underestimate Brian Griese.
Brady was a sophomore at Michigan when a determined Griese beat him out for the backup quarterback job that ultimately led to a starting and starring role on the 1997 national championship team.
Four years after helping the Wolverines go undefeated, Griese is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, whose championship potential has serious question marks heading into Sunday's game against Brady and the New England Patriots.
The Broncos (3-3) have lost three of four games, and Griese has been a convenient target for critics after throwing eight interceptions during the swoon.
Don't count Brady among those discounting Griese.
"Brian is a fighter, and any time the situation gets tough Brian is a guy who wants to fight his way out of it," he said. "I have never known him to give up or give in to anyone in his life. I'm sure with Brian leading that team, they will be ready to play. If there is one guy you want in a tough situation, it's him."
Brady might not be a bad pick, either.
Since taking over for injured starter Drew Bledsoe in Week 3, he has helped the Patriots (3-3) win three of four games. He credits his success, in part, to his battle with Griese at Michigan.
"If you are focused on how someone else is playing, it takes away from what I'm trying to accomplish. That's what I learned when I competed with Brian," Brady said. "That was the difference between the immature approach I took my sophomore year compared to the mature approach that Brian took."
The similarities between Griese and Brady go beyond their attitude and alma mater.
They are nearly identical in size Griese is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Brady is 6-4, 220 and each spent one NFL season learning from a proven veteran before becoming a starter. Griese took over when John Elway retired after the 1998 season.
Both also rely more on making intelligent decisions than they do mobility when trying to demoralize defenses.
Last year, Griese threw only four interceptions, while Brady has yet to throw interception in 134 career attempts.
"I think that he's been playing smarter football than Drew was," Griese said. "That's why they're winning. I was surprised to see they won three out of four games with him in there, but now that I've seen them on film it hasn't surprised me as much."
Despite his NFL success, Brady has yet to claim victory over Griese other than an occasional golf course wager.
Their competition in 1996 left Brady wondering if Michigan was the right place for him, but it also helped him adopt a work ethic that propelled the Wolverines to a 20-5 record with Brady as their starter after Griese graduated.
Brady has continued his winning ways in New England.
"He's making a name for himself," said Broncos linebacker Ian Gold, who also played with Brady as Michigan. "He wasn't the greatest athlete but he was the smartest guy on the field, and he prided himself on knowing everything that was happening on the field, and now you can see he's getting the job done."
Brady welcomed the chance to play against Gold. Though selective memory might be a factor, he remembered having great success against the defense during practices at Michigan.
"Believe me, there weren't a lot of days that he got to me in practice," Brady said. "I think I beat up on that defense quite a bit."