As Tom Brady closes the book on his professional football career, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the greatest athlete of all time. Yes, you heard that correctly. The greatest athlete of all time. Quite the accomplishment for a man who was drafted 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

The first thing that I would like to do is go over his accomplishments on the field as a quarterback and then focus on his undeniable leadership, ability to be the ultimate teammate and how he used both to catapult his remarkable career. 

When Tom Brady took over the starting quarterback job in the 2001 season for the New England Patriots, I don’t think anybody thought he would go on to become the greatest quarterback they’d ever seen. But he did exactly that. 

Brady was able to rewrite the history of the National Football League and cement his legacy by shattering just about every record that a quarterback could hold. In the regular season, Brady is #1 all time in passing yards, pass attempts, passes completed, and touchdown passes.

So you are probably thinking to yourself, well he had to of thrown a lot of interceptions playing that long right? Wrong. He’s thrown the 29th most interceptions in the regular season, which is a testament to his accuracy and decision making over the years. Brady also led the New England Patriots to a perfect regular season of 16-0 in 2007 while throwing 50 touchdown to only 8 interceptions and bringing home the NFL MVP. Folks that was over 14 years ago.

This past season he threw for over 5,300 yards, 43 touchdowns and had a 67% completion rate at the age of 44. Just remarkable. The longevity and consistency is unlike any athlete we have ever seen.  He should have also won the MVP.

Some athletes are able to perform well in the regular season, but struggle in the playoffs when the lights are brightest and the pressure and intensity rises.

Not the case with Tom.

He was able to shine the brightest on the biggest of stages time and time again throughout the course of his career. I say time and time again, because this man lived in the playoffs. He has played in 20% of all Super Bowls in NFL history, won over 10% of them and personally accounted for 11% of all touchdowns thrown in the history of the Super Bowl.  A truly absurd statistic. 

 Obviously those percentages will go down over time, but one number that won’t is 7; the amount of Super Bowl Rings Brady has. 6 with the New England Patriots and 1 championship in his 2 seasons as the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Tom was also awarded the Super Bowl MVP 5x in those 7 victories. Brady was a staple in the playoffs the last 22 years as he played in the NFC or AFC Championship game in 15 of those seasons.

Just like in the regular season, he is the all time leader in touchdown passes, passing yards and passes completed in postseason history. Brady’s success in both the regular season and playoffs is undeniable and he has completely rewritten the history of of the NFL.

Now the question becomes, how was he able to do this? He was never the most physically gifted quarterback, he never had the best arm and he for sure was not the fastest or most elusive. How was he able to make it to the Super Bowl ten different times? How was he able to dominate the complex team sport that is football for two decades?

This type of success does not come by accident and Tom understood from the beginning of his career in order to achieve greatness he could not do it alone. It was going to take every person involved in the game to perform at their best and to work together as a team to reach their goals. This is the part of sports that I believe gets overlooked, but really is the key fundamental in achieving greatness.

When I was young and started playing organized sports, the first thing that I was taught was how to be a part of a team. How to be selfless and sacrifice what is best for me in order to do what is best for the collective group. How to work with others to solve problems and grow together. These lessons have stayed with me my whole life and when I watched Tom Brady play football, he embodied all of this better than anyone I have ever seen. It truly was something special to watch. 

When you look back at Brady’s career, there was never a game the he played in the NFL where he did not have a chance at winning and he knew that. More importantly, his teammates and coaches knew that. It was evident in the way they approached the game of football and their poise and demeanor on the field.

Brady and his teams were in hundreds and thousands of different situations and all sorts of wild football games, but they never folded, never wavered from who they were and always believed in themselves. In my opinion, this is far greater of an accomplishment than anything else and Brady was the stabilizing force in all of that.

The amount of discipline and mental toughness it takes to go through an entire season and be successful is off the charts and Tom did this for 22 years straight.  It’s easy to forget that every single NFL season is different and poses its own challenges and he navigated his team through those rough waters time and time again.

Sometimes I forget that he was suspended and missed significant time with a serious injury because when he came back it was like he never left. We got so accustomed to seeing him out there on Sundays that we took what was happening for granted. It became normal, but what he was doing was anything but normal. 

Tom Brady is living proof that being an athlete is more than just maximizing your physical abilities. Nothing physically about Tom would tell you he’s the most elite athlete we’ve ever seen. Like I said, the difference is his leadership.

For 22 years straight he consistently worked harder than every person in the business, he held his teammates and himself accountable, he made others around him better. He earned the respect and admiration of new peers every year by elevating his play and the play of those around him.

Tom Brady is the greatest leader that I have ever seen in professional sports and that enabled him to become the greatest athlete of all time.

 

 

 

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