We should have learned. If Miami taught us anything last week it is that even the most unlikely things can become reality.
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It is the year 2000, and the young Tom Brady, star quarterback from the University of Michigan, is sitting at the NFL Draft, wearing a crestfallen look.
Five rounds have gone by and no one has picked him. He is what the NFL scouts term a “lightly regarded prospect”.
And then, it happens.
The New England Patriots pick Tom Brady in the sixth round of the draft. He is the 199th player picked to play for the NFL that year.
According to Michael Holley’s book Patriot Reign, the Patriots were considering Brady and Tim Rattay, both of whom had received positive reviews from then-quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein. Ultimately, the Patriots front office chose Brady.
Usually, being picked this late in the draft means being benched for most of one’s career, a free agent for much of it, and if lucky, a prolonged, stop and start career.
Young Tom Brady, however, is having none of that. He has made it to the NFL, and he intends to make a statement.
But let’s not get ahead of our take, and go back to where it all started.
Brady grew up in California, hero worshipping Joe Montana, just like any kid who was a 49ers fan in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a good football, baseball and basketball player in school. So good in fact, that the Montreal Expos, the Major League Baseball team, drafted him in 1995 in the 18th Round.
However Tom Brady wanted to play football.
He played college football for the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1999. He was a backup quarterback for his first two years, while teammate and future NFL quarterback, Brian Griese, led the 1997 Wolverines to an undefeated season, capped by a victory in the Rose Bowl and a share of the national championship.
The two seasons that Brady started at Michigan, he posted a 20–5 record, including his two largest victories at the Citrus Bowl (1999) and the Orange Bowl (2000). He finished his career ranking third in Michigan history with 710 attempts and 442 completions, fourth with 5,351 yards and 62.3 completion percentage, and fifth with 35 touchdown passes.
But this was all in the past, and in 2000, Tom Brady was only looking ahead to his tryst with destiny.
At the Patriots, Brady was backup to Drew Bledsoe, one of New England’s best quarterbacks ever. So, as the understudy, Brady expected to play second fiddle for a long time. But he was willing to learn. And be patient, biding his time.
In fact, at the start, Brady was the fourth choice quarterback. But well before the end of the season, he had moved up to be the second choice behind Bledsoe, based on the depth chart.
The, in his second year with the Patriots, Bledsoe picked up an injury.
Brady took over and led New England to the Super Bowl that year.
In the Super Bowl, despite being heavy underdogs, the Patriots played well, holding the Rams’ high powered offense in check through the first three quarters. The Rams rallied from a 17–3 deficit to tie the game with 1:30 left in regulation. The Patriots then got the ball back at their own 17 yard line with no timeouts remaining.
Sportscaster and former Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden said he thought the Patriots should run out the clock and try to win the game in overtime.
Instead, in what would become a habit of doing the unconventional, Brady drove the Patriots’ offense down the field to the Rams’ 31 before spiking the ball with seven seconds left. Then kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Patriots a 20–17 win and their first ever league championship.
Tom Brady was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXVI while throwing for 145 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, becoming the then-youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl.
Since that fateful day in 2001, Brady has led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowls and won Ffur of them.
He holds every record in the NFL that is available to a quarterback.
He has been adjudged Super Bowl MVP thrice, the NFL’s MVP twice, and made Eleven Pro Bowl appearances, among other things.
Today, 16 years after he first started with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady completed his 201st victory in the NFL as a quarterback, in his 264th game.
It was perhaps fated, and insanely poetic, that the victory was against the Los Angeles Rams, his hapless opponents in his very first Super Bowl.
This is an incredible achievement which no quarterback has ever managed, and no one is likely to better in the foreseeable future. Peyton Manning at 200 (in 293 games) and Brett Favre at 199 victories, are both retired.
Tom Brady is inarguably, from every angle imaginable, the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL.
And at 39, when most quarterbacks are enjoying their retirements, Tom Brady is fighting fit, steadily increasing his yardage (he last week crossed 60,000 yards) and throwing 5161 passes.
With an incredible completion percentage of 63.8, is just warming up for a go at his seventh Super Bowl appearance, and if all the stars are aligned, his fifth Super Bowl ring.