Byron Kennedy put on his Mike Evans jersey and headed to Raymond James Stadium to take his front row seat for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. At the time, the 29-year-old Bucs fan had no idea was going was going to be handed an incredibly valuable piece of sports memorabilia before willingly deciding to give it up.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady entered the game against the Bears with an NFL record 598 touchdowns. With two touchdown tosses, Brady would become the first player in NFL history to throw 600 TDs. After throwing his first touchdown to Chris Godwin minutes earlier, Brady put himself in position to hit the round number as the Bucs capitalized on a Chicago fumble near the end of the first quarter.
On 3rd-and-7 from the 9-yard line, Brady dropped back to pass and hit Evans for the TD. Evans apparently didn’t realize this was touchdown No. 600, because he ran to the back of the end zone and handed the ball to Kennedy, the fan wearing his jersey in the stands.
Minutes later, a Bucs staffer approached Kennedy to get the ball back for Brady. Kennedy agreed and gave it up. That was a costly decision.
Mike Evans accidently gave Tom Brady's 600 TD game ball to a fan and they worked the entire break to try to get it back from the fan.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 24, 2021
Tony Romo suggested they'll give the fan a date with Gisele pic.twitter.com/oIYu1xmcdu
CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson got the initial scoop, saying the Bucs were going to send Kennedy another ball and a signed jersey. Announcers Tony Romo and Jim Nantz immediately exclaimed “that’s a bad deal!” — and, well — they aren’t wrong.
The sports memorabilia market is hot right now. How much could Kennedy have sold the ball for? He was almost certainly looking at something in the six figure range. One auction leader estimated the ball could have pulled in $600K on the open market.
Fan gets Tom Brady’s 600th TD ball after Mike Evans handed it to him not realizing what it was.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 24, 2021
The Bucs staff came over to ask for it back and fan complied.
Just spoke with @KenGoldin of @GoldinAuctions. Said the ball is worth $500,000 at minimum.
After catching @TomBrady’s 600th career touchdown, @MikeEvans13_ accidentally gave the ball to a fan.— Ken Goldin (@KenGoldin) October 24, 2021
Given how historic this ball is as the first 600th TD in NFL history, I’d estimate this ball to be worth a minimum of $500,000 (and possibly much more). pic.twitter.com/VhGZTJ3gNX
Brady was asked about getting the ball back in the post-game press conference after the Bucs went on to win a rout, 38-3, over the Bears.
Brady said he doesn’t keep too many things from games, but he wanted to keep this touchdown ball. He said he’d give Kennedy “something nice in return.” The Athletic’s Greg Auman reported the fan was getting a $1K gift certificate to the Bucs’ team store in addition to a replacement ball.
.@TomBrady got his 6️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ ball back pic.twitter.com/khPgn9Bcxo— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 25, 2021
The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Kennedy after the game. He said he was hesitant to give up the ball, but ultimately did it out of his respect for Brady.
“I knew how much it meant to Tom,” said Kennedy, who was given a different ball after handing over the historic one, “and I was willing to trade.”
Kennedy is a better dude than me, because I would be running out of the stadium the second I was handed that ball. Imagine potentially giving up half a million dollars. He’s got to be sick. Fortunately, it sounds like Kennedy has a pretty good career for himself.
Bucs fan who gave back the ball from Tom Brady’s 600th career TD pass got another ball from the team, and has much more coming - Byron Kennedy, 29, of St. Petersburg, doctor of internal medicine at Largo Medical Center.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 24, 2021
Our favorite part of this whole incident? Mike Evans realizing that was a pretty important touchdown ball he gave away.
Mike Evans realizing he gave away Tom Brady’s 600th TD ball is the best part of this game. pic.twitter.com/ON8rHRo0lT— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 24, 2021
It ended up not being a costly mistake for Evans, but giving the ball away sure was one for Kennedy.