Week 173 (4 - 10 February 2017)
Tom Brady’s MVP-winning performance in the New England Patriots’ heroic Super Bowl LI victory wrote yet another chapter in the American’s fairy-tale sports career. Sunday’s 34-28 victory against the Atlanta Falcons handed Brady his fifth Super Bowl title in the most dramatic fashion possible as the Patriots came from 25 points down, with less than 24 minutes remaining, to win the contest in the first drive of overtime.
No team had ever before come back from more than a 10-point deficit to win a Super Bowl. And as one US journalist put it in his review column on Monday morning: “Of course, the Brady-led Patriots would be the first.”
When Brady, 39, retires, he will be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.
But it has not always been plain sailing for the veteran NFL star, and his journey from also-ran to the very top of his chosen game is an all-time classic sports story. Brady has written it, not through words but with his remarkable actions.
In his early teenage years, despite his high school junior varsity side failing to win a match all season, Brady had to fight for game-time each week. Fast forward three years and, after securing the varsity starting quarterback position, Brady won a scholarship to Michigan. But his start in college football was slow and, after enrolling, he found himself as seventh-string quarterback. At this stage the NFL seemed a distant dream.
Brady faced further hurdles throughout his college career. Even after building his way up to the starting quarterback position in his third year, he discovered he would have to share game-time with popular freshman Drew Henson. This would have dented the ego of many athletes, but not Brady. He kept his head down, worked hard and took his chances when they arose – a lesson for all aspiring young athletes.
Then came a defining moment in Brady’s career: the 2000 NFL draft. After a gruelling few hours, the New England Patriots finally selected him in the 6th round – as the 199th pick. Despite feeling humiliated, Brady did not let this affect him, and by the end of his rookie season he had worked his way up to second-string. The following year the starting quarterback sustained an injury, leaving Brady as first pick. That same year, he led the Patriots to their first ever Super Bowl title. By this stage his exceptional talent was there for all to see; it was his relentless determination that made him stand out.
The most infamous moment in Brady’s career was the “deflategate” scandal in 2015. “Deflategate” implicated Brady in an illegal tactic to reduce the air in the balls that the Patriots used – making them easier to throw and catch. Despite pleading innocence, Brady was handed a four match ban. The scandal had tarnished a hard-earned reputation, built up over 15 years. However, the way in which Brady bounced back showed the composure and class he oozes on the field.
Brady bumped “deflategate” down another several bullet points on his career CV with his match- winning display on Sunday night, making him the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls and the first player to do so for the same team. Speaking after his record-winning display, Brady was asked about retirement: “If it was up to my wife, she would have me retire today. She told me that last night three times. And I said, ‘Too bad, babe, I’m having too much fun right now’.”
Whilst Brady’s career story speaks for itself, Brady’s personality is a reminder of why people love sport and idolise true sportspeople: sport is fun, no matter what level you play at.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons