Tom Brady. As you hear those words, what comes to mind? Dynasty? Champion? Super Bowl?
Now think of the word underdog. Tom Brady is just about the last thing you think of. And yet, that's just who he was. Brady was an underdog—a tortoise who conquered the hare.
After Brady was drafted by the Patriots, we all know (or at least most of us do) he had to sit behind Bledsoe for a while; waiting, watching, and learning before his opportunity came knocking.
But I'm talking beyond that. I mean in life, Brady was an underdog. A tortoise as it were. But one with a dream, and who through hard work, fulfilled that dream.
Brady loved sports all his life. He grew up around sports with three athletic older sisters and his parents who supported all of them. Tom also lived 30 minutes away from the 49ers stadium, and his beloved Joe Montana which probably had something to do with it.
Tom Brady actually attended the 1981 NFC Championship between the Cowboys and the 49ers.
He had a passion for excellence, and a determination to win. He wasn't the biggest, fastest, or strongest in his neighborhood. But he knew how to win.
Tom would go around challenging any of the fast kids to a footrace. He got smoked every time. But afterwards, as if watching film after the game, he would analyze what went wrong. What made them so fast, and what needed to be done. In time, he could beat any kid in town.
With his intelligence and never say die attitude, he flourished in sports. Not football, but baseball. He could hit, run, and throw with the best of them.
Brady never actually played football until freshman year at an all-boys Catholic school in the town he grew up in, San Mateo.
His Junior year he was starring in two sports: baseball and football. He was known for his incredible work ethic and actually devised the football workout and training schedule.
His hard work payed off. In 1994 both Blue Chip Illustrated and Prep Football Report regarded him as an All-American High-School Quarterback.
However, in the 1995 MLB draft, the Montreal Expos picked him in the 18th round. Brady had to make up his mind between Baseball and Football.
After thinking (and perhaps meditating) over his choices, he choose football. Good choice. Although many closer schools were interested in Brady, he choose to go with a scholarship at the University of Michigan.
But he was redshirted his freshman year, and the next was still only a third string QB. Remember, though, this is Tom Brady. With his incredible hare conquering intelligence, he memorized the playbook and practiced with all the starters.
In 1997, he was still last place in the quarterback race at Michigan. As soon as he was starting to get snaps, his year ended due to his getting a surgical removal of his appendix.
When Brian Griese finally graduated, and after a grueling camp, he was elected starter in 1998.
It wasn't a cakewalk to the NFL after that though, no sirree.
They lost their first two games to Notre Dame and Syracuse. Still believing in Brady, Coach Carr kept him at the helm. That led to good results as Tom Brady turned the season around leading them on a winning streak all the way to the season finale—rival Ohio State.
Brady proved himself big time in that game, going 31-56 for 375 yards and a touchdown. He also set records in completions, attempts, and yardage. Remarkably, it wasn't enough as the Buckeyes rolled on to victory in a 31-16 win.
He led the Wolverines to a 45-31 win over the Razerbacks in the Citris Bowl for a comeback victory.
Only Jim Harbaugh threw for more yards then him in a single season in all of Michigan's history.
Still, Brady wasn't a shoe in for the starting job in 1999. That was sophomore Drew Henson's fault. He was supposed to be a "once-in-a-lifetime" type talent.
Although he shared time with Henson for the majority of the season, he still emerged as the solo starter for the last four games, wrapping it all up with an overtime victory over Alabama in the Orange Bowl 35-34.
So now he gets drafted and goes on to become a superstar and I need to end this article right? Wrong. However high your hopes may have just gotten...this gets better.
Scouts gave mixed reviews about Brady. While he had amazing work ethic, attitude, and drive there was something lacking. His durability.
He was 6-4 sure, but only just over 200 pounds. He wasn't a mobile Quarterback, and eventually was pegged as a solid back up, not worthy of ever getting a starting job.
Bill Belichick was one who saw something in him. And come 6th round of the 2000 draft, Tom Brady was a New England Patriot.
What's interesting is Brady actually lost his cool. During the draft, he had envisioned going during the first two rounds he recalls...and after the 4th or so round his parents said he grabbed a baseball bat and decided to do a little "landscaping" in their backyard.
He showed up for camp ready to play though. Once again, he was teased for being small. Once again, he showed them all that the tortoise does beat the hare. He committed the playbook to memory and began to be respected through his work ethic.
That year was a total disaster for the Pats. They went 5-11, and Brady's only action came in a 34-9 beating to the Detroit Lions (one of our prouder moments).
Tom Brady trained harder than anyone else and added 15 pounds of muscle during the off season. He already had the playbook memorized and practiced footwork in his apartment.
There wasn't a single day he wasn't preparing and practicing in some way. He was confident that come next year, he could lead the team to victory.
While most had seen the Pats additions to the team (ironically they included now stars Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Matt Light) and predicted another pathetic year.
In week two, he finally got his chance. If you look at it, he owes the start of his NFL career to Jets Linebacker Mo Lewis, who nearly killed Drew Bledsoe. Literally.
He sheared a blood vessel in his chest. There was no way he was going to play again, and recovery was going to be long and painful. For better or worse, this was Tom's shot.
Safety Lowyer Milloy took Brady aside after the game in Miami. He reminded him of his days in Michigan. Brady was a true leader there. It was time to be a leader for New England. Something tells me he took that to heart...
The next week the Pats made a comeback victory, winning it in overtime. Brady through a 91 yard pass to David Patten, the longest play from scrimmage in franchise history.
The next five games they went 4-1, including a victory over the heavily favored Rams. The next game though was key. They played the Jets. Bledsoe was healthy enough to play finally. It appeared Brady kept the seat warm, and it was time to turn things over.
Haha...no. He was allowed to stay in (much to Drew's maddening, and disappointment) and won against New York that week. That made his record 6-3, far superior to Bledsoe's job of 5-11 last season. The decision was clear, and Brady would stay starter.
He stayed cool under pressure and beat Miami 21-13. Next week Brady and co. crushed the Panthers securing home field advantage for the first week of the playoffs, and a guaranteed AFC East division title.
Here they were, in the first week of the playoffs. They were the underdogs against the Oakland Raiders despite being in Foxboro.
They led an exciting, snowy game into overtime with a field goal, and then won after Brady threw 8 complete passes in a row. The final score was 16-13.
In the AFC Conference Championship they beat the Steelers although Brady sprained an ankle. Believe it or not (and no one did) the Pats were going to the Super Bowl.
On paper, there was no contest. None, at all. The Rams were so overrated, the only question was how many points would they lose by.
Everyone was elated to hear Tom would start. Well...not Bledsoe, but that's a different story.
Kurt Warner had an amazing receiveing corps, and all star Marshall Faulk. Tom Brady looked like a high school kid compared to the Rams. It seemed there was no way Tom and co. could possibly win.
Come halftime though, that sneaky tortoise did what he did best. He analyzed the strengths of his team, and concentrated on penetrating the Rams weaknesses. The Pats were more physical, and showed it.
Warner had an injured thumb, and the receiving corps looked like they'd been through World War 3. All of a sudden...the Rams appeared vulnerable.
It was now 17-17 with 90 seconds left. Tom Brady had the ball on his own 17 yardline. He drove the team down the field to the 30 yard line, with only seven seconds left.
Vinitari nailed the field goal and won the game 20-17. Brady won the MVP, and went into the locker room a hero.
After that his life was a blur—parties, magazines, photo shoots, the whole shabang.
The only key addition to the team for next season was Deion Branch. Something didn't quite gell about the team, and they ended up not making the playoffs despite amazing effort.
Of course, the media ate it up. Is Tom Brady a fluke? Can he stay healthy? And on and on and on...
In the next season, with some help of course, Brady won another Super Bowl against Carolina 32-29. With two rings, and a pair of MVP trophies all rumors were put to rest.
Tom Brady established himself as a premier Quarterback of the NFL. He had amazing stats on paper, and had finally conquered all hares. He was the underdog, the tortoise, but won.
We all know how it goes from here, because Tom Brady became a household name. He went from being associated with words like "slow", "underdog", " bench warmer", and "wanna be" to "champion", "Super Bowl", "winner", and eventually "dynasty".
How did he do it? Determination, work ethic, and by applying himself to learning. I think we all learn a little something from Tom Brady's story, fulfilling the timeless illustration of how that tortoise conquered the hare.
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