41 Is the New 25 for No. 12 [OPINION]
Who cares if he is turning 42 later this year? Why should an age dictate one's exit from the profession they love? Tom Brady is performing at a very high level as an NFL quarterback even if he was 25 years old.
As time goes on in my life, I can see that age is only a number, and that everyone pretty much has their own shelf life and an internal clock that contributes to individual speeds by which we all age. Genetics, diet, environment, levels of stress and just plain luck being the factors.
Surely you've been to a class reunion and were stunned by how older some got since you've last seen them, and conversely, how great others appear to look.
When it comes to the NFL, I think it's time to recognize a couple of things. Sports medicine, expert training, and nutrition are extending athletic careers, in particular for those whose personal aging is slower than most.
Enter Tom Brady; his diet is stupid disciplined. His parents are both alive and lively, and despite his mom's recent scare with cancer, she appears to be vibrant and enjoying her life. He's a multi-millionaire and the toast of the town. He's married to Gisele Bundchen--so there's that.
He is still playing a game that he loves and obsesses over and shows nada, zip, zilch, no signs of losing his passion for playing. Just last August, in his 19th season, I caught it. He was focused and attentively watching while watching his QB backup Brian Hoyer take a knee to end a pre-season game!
He's 41. He's won five Super Bowl rings, has won an insane nine AFC Championships and competed in 13 in total.
Brady (70,514 yards) will pass Brett Farve (71,838) and Peyton Manning (79,140) in all-time passing yardage by mid-October of next year, with only Drew Brees (74,437) in front of him. TB12 (517 touchdowns) should pass Manning (539) and possibly Brees (520) for the most passing TDs in the regular season as well by the end of next year.
The regular season records are extremely gaudy and formidable but the only one he cares about is the record W-I-N-S. Last week during a press conference, he was asked what was his motivation.
"I just like to win," he said, staring into the eyes of the reporter when he said it the first time and then nodded as he looked around, probably unaware that he said it again. "I like to win."
Manning broke a lot of the records but the big ones are already under attack. Brees passed Manning in total yardage just three quick years after he retired, and both Brees and Brady will smash his TD record next year. So Brady knows, records like those will fall, and likely while he is still alive.
In fact, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes may break every passing record by the end of September 2019.
The one that won't be so easy, though, is the ones Brady values most: wins. And in particular, Super Bowl wins. He is the exclusive owner of five. Only Terry Bradshaw of the famed 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers and the Emperor of QBs Joe Montana of the 1980s San Francisco 49ers have four.
Brady will be playing for his sixth a week from Sunday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta, Georgia.
I'm not looking past the Rams by any stretch, but are you aware that New England has 12 picks in this coming April's NFL Draft? Yeah, and six of them in the first three rounds.
Whatever we are looking at on the roster right now, they will be significantly better on paper next September.
Remember, this Tom Brady guy was snubbed by most colleges around the nation when he graduated from Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California. Michigan took him on after Tom's dad sent some highlight film, but even there, he was never realized as the clear starting QB.
Even his senior year at Michigan, he had to share snaps with a blue-chip freshman stud who was also drafted by the New York Yankees, Drew Henson. But all Brady did was win. He finished at Michigan with a 20-5 record, beat Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl and defeated Ohio State for the right to do that.
On Draft Day, Brady watched quarterback after quarterback being chosen without his name being called. Marshall's Chad Pennington went to the Jets in the first round with the No. 18 pick. He was actually a decent choice and was mostly denied greater things due to injury, but after him, in the third round, was 65th pick Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra, chosen by the 49ers (Brady's favorite and hometown team). Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger (sixth round) and Spergon Wynn all found spots on NFL rosters ahead of the eventual GOAT.
April 16, 2000, was Day No. 2 of the draft. This day was also winding down, and Brady was distressed and emotionally crushed.
Like tens of thousands of others over the decades who were convinced they could play at that level, it seemed the NFL was not interested. This did something to Brady that has had earth-shaking consequences felt as late as last Sunday night in Kansas City.
A white-hot fire was lit in his belly that April weekend in 2000. No known element can extinguish it. Not time, not weather, not physically superior enemies or even a completely destroyed knee back in Week 1 of the 2008 season.
Something unexpected did happen for him just before the draft ended. Even though the New England Patriots had three quarterbacks on their roster, new head coach Bill Belichick took Brady with the 199th pick of the draft, at the end of the sixth round.
Again, 198 players and six quarterbacks were taken by the 32 NFL teams before the league's greatest player was chosen.
Patriots owner Bob Kraft recalled when he spoke with Brady for the first time in June of 2000. Brady passed him on one of the staircases at the old stadium on his way to practice. The 21-year-old Brady smiled and said, "Hi Mr. Kraft, you don't know me, I'm Tom Brady."
"Sure I do," Kraft responded. "You're our fourth-string quarterback and the sixth round pick."
Brady said, "That's right. And I'm the best decision this organization has ever made."
It turns out, he was the best decision any of the NFL's 32 teams have ever made. Weeks earlier, at the NFL combines where invited college prospects are gauged in their physical ability, Brady ran a 40-yard dash in 5.2 seconds.
To put that into perspective, if he raced his own offensive line, he'd never win. His build indicated that he may have been better suited as a career birthday card writer.
What no one could possibly have known (Belichick excluded, as he did choose him) was that Brady not only belonged, he excelled at the next level.
Almost "Mr. Irrelevant," Tom Brady today is a household name. The fire burns like the flames inside the bowels of Mount Mordor. Coach Sauron--err, Belichick--and Brady show no signs of letting up on the gas pedal. Sure, he has the record NFL bling. He makes Sweet Gypsy Rose seem under-embellished (a 50-and-older joke here).
He still has something to prove. He still wants to punish the doubters. The haters. The embarrassing witch hunt he suffered at the hands of Roger Goodell and Ted Wells threw uranium rods on the fire. All he had accomplished to prove them all wrong was being stolen with unproven accusations that still found him humiliated and suspended.
Think about that, Roger Goodell. You have done your best to try to drag the Patriots back into the rest of the pack, and ironically it is you who has Brady still going in the gym at 5 a.m., and on the laptop watching defenses at 12:15 a.m. week after week, win after win.
Brady holds doors for rookies and delivery guys at Gillette. He knows the names of almost every full-time staffer there. He is some kind of football nerd-god. There is nothing he doesn't love about the entire experience, except losing.
You don't eat as he eats, practice like he practices, study like he studies and play like he plays with plans to suddenly jam on the brakes and just walk home like Forrest Gump quitting the jog across the country. He is clearly enjoying the success, his (four generations of) teammates and his coaches. He loves the meetings, the practices, the training, the film studies, sure. But he still loves to W-I-N.
His expression of excitement and elation following the win in the AFC title game was about the same as it was when he took the podium as Super Bowl MVP in 2002.
Keep going, Tom. I think you just might keep your word and play until 45.
I know some of you "hate" him, in the sports fan sense of the word. But you will absolutely brag someday that you saw the best ever to play the game. You can argue with your lying eyes. and pretend you didn't just see the grand master in the pocket just slip and slide between six separate gladiator combats around him and thread the needle with a pass to for his 1.21th Giga-win, but I know what I saw and I know what I see: GOAT.
Michael Rock, Fun 107's own version of Tom Brady, thinks if the Patriots do happen to win on February 3rd at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Brady should retire and ride with Gisele into the sunset. Maybe become the next Dos Equis guy or something.
See Michael's blog and tell us who you agree with.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.