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Tom Brady has been a mainstay in the NFL since becoming a starter during his second season in the league, way back in 2001, and has earned the respect of some of his harshest critics. All sports icons, no matter how hated, turn things around with fans at some point and it looks like Brady’s most recent championship is what’s really brought it home for him.
The veteran quarterback has been the subject of lots of controversy over the course of his career but, after a seventh Super Bowl win, you just have to give a guy what’s due.
Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots way back in 2000, coming into the league in the sixth round at No.199, which makes him the biggest draft steal ever. Things came to an end in 2020, with the relationship between the Patriots and its franchise player wearing thin. This Sunday will mark Brady’s first to the Pats’ Gillette Stadium since leaving and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers team is heading into the weekend as the joint favorites for a win at Super Bowl 56, with the Chiefs having shown much weakness since the beginning of the campaign.
The fact that Brady’s seventh championship came at the expense of Patrick Mahomes and the aforementioned Chiefs makes it all the more impressive. But just having seven as a player leaves him the most successful player in NFL history.
Considering he was drafted at 199 in the sixth round, we should have never even heard much about Brady, yet here we are. An injury to Drew Bledsoe led to him getting the starting role in his sophomore season and the QB hasn’t looked back since, helping fire the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl win which made him the youngest QB to win it all at 24. He reigned as their starter for 18 seasons, leading them to 17 division titles, 13 AFC Championship games, nine Super Bowl appearances, and six titles.
The California native would win back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005, which left him as a bit of a hated figure in the eyes of fans of other AFC teams.
Many great sports phenoms don’t start out at the bottom. This certainly wasn’t the case for Michael Jordan, who was a star through high school and college before setting the world alight in the wake of being drafted by the Chicago Bulls. Getting cut from his high school team hardly made Jordan an underdog.
Brady went about building his legacy differently, emerging from obscurity to become one of the most successful persons in all of sports.
He went through a drought between 2005 and 2013, winning zero rings, though appearing in a few championship games but. But enter 2014 and it’s been mostly Brady ever since, with the larger-than-life quarterback winning half of the eight Super Bowl games that have taken place since then.
Brady does not need to win another ring and should he never lift a championship trophy again, it would do little to sully his career. But he’s still keen on ensuring he leaves everything out there before hanging it up.
“I don’t think anything will match my football career,” he was quoted as saying recently, per the Washington Street Journal. “I think it’s too hard to replicate that level of energy and output and adrenaline. That’s kind of why I want to go until the end, because I want to make sure I don’t look back and go, ‘Man, I could still do it.’ I don’t know where that’s going to be. I really don’t.”
At 44, Brady is four years older than the second-oldest player in the league but is still among the top five QBs. He was in the audience when Peyton Manning delivered his Hall of Fame speech. Manning has already been retired for five years yet Brady is still making throws and scoring touchdowns.
No one is supposed to be that good at any sport at 44, not least as part of a discipline where the opposition’s main aim is to tackle you to the ground with every ounce of force they could muster. But Brady continues to defy both logic and father time. As for retirement, he says he will know when it’s time to call it quits.
“I don’t want to be out there and suck,” he admits “You think I want to go out there and look like I’m 44 years old? I want to look like I’m in my prime.”
The story’s not all written up yet but, should it end right now, Brady will have cemented himself as football’s GOAT. His achievements will likely never be matched yet he’s still out there trying to make that a certainty. It only speaks to his greatness as a competitor.