As a die-hard Patriots fan, I already knew the story – the kid who didn’t start on his own high school football team, who had to scrape and claw to stay on the field in college, who was drafted 199th in the 2000 NFL draft, who finally got his shot the day Drew Bledsoe went down and turned it into three Super Bowls and nearly every single-season record a quarterback can hold.
Yeah, I knew the story. I had just never heard Tom Brady tell it in his own words.
Last night ESPN aired their documentary, Brady 6, which focused on the career of Tom Brady and the six other quarterbacks who were drafted before him. As the 65th pick that year, Giovanni Carmazzi, currently a yoga-practicing farmer who owns five goats, will attest, none of those six are up to much these days, while Brady just became the only unanimous MVP winner in NFL history. When I first heard about the concept, I did wonder a bit about the angle. If ESPN wanted to do a Brady documentary, why bother dragging in these other six guys and rehashing the fact that most fizzled out? It seemed kind of cruel in a way. After all, nobody needs to know about Sam Bowie to understand that Michael Jordan was great. However, after watching the piece tonight, I walked away feeling like the angle was pure genius.
It’s easy to say Tom Brady is great. You’d have to be living on a goat farm without a television for the past ten years to not know that. What last night’s documentary revealed is why Tom Brady is great. As he openly admitted in the film, Brady has never been the best athlete. What he has always been, though, is the hardest worker. It took the constant rejection of not starting in high school, of having to bust his tail to beat out the hometown favorite, Drew Henson, for the starting QB spot his fifth year at Michigan, of watching pick, after pick, after pick go by in the NFL Draft without his name being called, to turn him into the workhorse that he is today.
The past few days, I’ve heard some people say “Tom Brady needs to get over it”, regarding the slight he still feels from being picked 199th. While it may be true that, three Super Bowls later, his draft position has been rendered largely irrelevant, those people are missing the point. Tom Brady’s focus on that number has nothing to do with needing to prove something to the people who passed over him, and everything to do with the harsh reality that he’s a play away from having his storybook world come to a crashing end. There is always going to be somebody trying to take his job away. There is always some team who is going to try and keep him from adding another title to his shelf. He wasn’t the #1 pick. He was the 199th. If he doesn’t outstudy, outwork, and outplay those people, there’s no way he can expect to stay on top.
It’s that drive and that heart that has lead to all the trophies and records. When you look at the other six, you see guys who were content to be the backup, or couldn’t handle the pressure. You see some who were unlucky and caught the injury bug, or just never had the right team around them to succeed. And then there’s Brady, who gunned for a Pro-Bowl quarterback’s starting spot, who came back from a torn ACL and put together an MVP season, who always gets the most out of his teammates, even when the talent is lacking.
After last night’s documentary, I don’t see how anyone could come away from it without a profound respect for Tom Brady. Regardless, I’m sure many will continue to mock the hair, focus on the super-model wife, the dancing in Brazil, and all the other garbage that people come up with to try and knock Brady down a few pegs. After last night, I’ll let them mock all they want. Because while they are scheming up new ways to trash Brady, he’s busy finding new ways to beat their football team.