At 40 years old, five-time Super Bowl champion and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not shown any signs of slowing down. The quarterback threw 32 touchdowns during this most recent regular season, with just eight interceptions — not bad for a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL draft.
Brady’s rise to stardom is different from that of other quarterbacks and NFL players who came before him.
That said, here is a look at five ways Brady has defied the norm and essentially rewritten the rules of professional football.
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1.) He’s put the team first. How often does a player spend nearly two decades with the same NFL team? Not often.
Brady has been a committed member of the Patriots for a long time — and one reason he’s been able to stick around and the team has been able to excel around him is because he takes a discounted contract. As one example, he restructured his contracts to give his team more money to spend on other players.
Brady is currently on a contract where he earns $20.5 million. While that may seem like a lot, he makes the 12th most per year among NFL quarterbacks, according to Forbes. Considering that Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other starting quarterback in NFL history, that’s quite a shock. He deserves the most money given the success he has enjoyed, but that would take away from the rest of his team — and Brady has proven time and time again that his team always comes first.
2.) Age is just a number. Sure, Peyton Manning also won a Super Bowl when he was 39 years old, but he did so with a water pistol for an arm and horrible stats (nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions during the regular season). Brady is a year older and still one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game. He actually had a higher passer rating (102.8) and more touchdowns (32) than in any of his seasons when he was in his 20s.
The average NFL career lasts 3.3 years, according to Statista, and currently Brady is the oldest nonkicker in the NFL. A major reason for this is his diet. Brady is known to keep to a strict diet for which he avoids alcohol, caffeine, dairy, and sugar.
He also mostly keeps away from heavy weights when he works out and instead focuses on bands to help stretch and build his muscles.
Brady even hawks nutrition and workout books with the secrets to his success; but whether or not players eat avocado ice cream like him is not the point. What matters is that Brady takes care of himself, and he is being rewarded for doing so.
3.) He bounced back from a major injury as a veteran player. Not only are injuries extremely painful for athletes, but they can also derail careers — especially in football, where most players have short careers.
However, this was not the case for Brady when he tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the first game of the 2008 NFL season. At that point, Brady had already been in the league for nine years and won three Super Bowls. When he came back in 2009, he was 32 years old and one of the older quarterbacks in the league coming off an injury.
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Still, he worked hard to come back strong and had a sharp 2009 season (65.7 percent completion percentage, 28 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions). NFL Network put Brady’s comeback in its top-10 player comebacks in league history. Other players with as many years behind them as Brady had at the time of his injury likely would have ended their careers, but Brady was determined and it clearly paid off.
4.) A different kind of speed matters. This decade, there has been an influx of highly touted “dual-threat” quarterbacks, but the success Brady has endured should have teams rethinking the “dual threat” strategy entirely.
Dual-threat quarterbacks, who are fast and good at running the ball, have excelled at the college level. Examples of this would include former first overall draft picks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III in addition to Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick. (Manziel and Tebow were first-round draft picks, and Kaepernick was selected early in the second round.) None of them have a Super Bowl ring and with the exception of Newton, none of those careers were memorable for anything that happened on the field. It doesn’t take NFL teams long to catch onto a read-option offense and shut it down.
A major reason Brady was overlooked in the 2000 NFL Draft is his lack of athleticism. He ran a 5.24 40-yard dash at the combine.
Still, this has not hurt Brady in any way. He ran for 28 yards this past regular season, yet his team is playing in the Super Bowl. Brady excels with short-range passes and has a quicker release time — from catching the snap to throwing the ball. CBS Sports reported that in 2015, he got off over 80 percent of his passes within 2.5 seconds of the snap. That speed has made Brady one of best quarterbacks each and every year that he has played, not how fast he can run.
5.) He has resilience. Character is revealed in challenging times — and when Brady has been through those times, he has almost always prevailed.
On the field, he has mounted several huge comebacks that have secured his legacy as the most successful quarterback in NFL history. Last year, he helped the Patriots overcome a 28-3 deficit to win the Super Bowl, and earlier this week he overcame a 20-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to win the AFC Championship game.
Off the field, Brady has shown resilience when faced with harsh and often unjustified criticism. Whether it is being accused of cheating in “spygate” or “deflategate” or the national media’s attacking him for his relationship with President Donald Trump, Brady and the Patriots always seem to have scandal following them every year. Still, none of this has any impact on how Brady performs. The Patriots have made it to the AFC Championship game for seven straight seasons, and Brady has never completed less than 60 percent of his passes in a season as an NFL starter.
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Whether on or off the field, Brady keeps his eye on the ball. That is a huge factor in his unmatched success in football.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.