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Tom Brady — or as you may know him, “The Goat” — is arguably the best to have ever done it in any sport. It’s hard to even argue, as his numbers speak for themselves. In fact, there may never be a more clutch quarterback in the history of the game. Don’t be a hater, we all know it. And, on Sunday, Tom Brady will lead his New England Patriots onto the field for Super Bowl 52, which is his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his illustrious career.
But, how did the quarterback who once platooned playing time with Drew Henson during his college days at Michigan go on to win five Super Bowl titles with a chance for a sixth, four Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs and be named to the 2000 All-Decade team? And, let's not forget, a guy who had the "luck" to land supermodel Gisele Bundchen for a wife? The Devil, that’s how.
Anytime Tom Brady picks up a football, we are witnessing greatness. But, back in 1998, Tom Brady was fighting for his starting spot at Michigan with a quarterback by the name of Drew Henson. If you don’t know Henson, it’s probably because he never capitalized on his hype. However, for the first seven games of the ’99 college football season, Henson would split time with Brady. Henson would play the first quarter, while Tom Brady played the second, and Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr would let the hot hand play the second half. Brady would eventually get the starting nod halfway through the season, but, for as good as Tom is now, you’d never expect him to start off where he did.
Tom Brady wasn’t a special college quarterback. Far from the overhyped, highly-rated guys who fans generally associate with greatness. Instead, Brady was your run of the mill Big Ten quarterback — average arm strength, minimal athleticism, and a classic “game manager” who was just good enough not to lose games. As a starter for Michigan, he never threw for more than 18 touchdowns or a completion percentage over 62 percent. He had some big games, and the clutch gene was there, but he also had his fair share of duds. His throws didn’t have the heat on them that made scouts crave his upside, and there wasn’t anything that particularly jumped out about his game. For all those reasons, he was selected in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft, at pick No. 199 by the Patriots.
Now, I don’t have proof that Tom Brady sold his soul to the devil, but if I had to imagine, it was probably before the 2001 season. That was the year that Drew Bledsoe — the then starting signal-caller for the New England Patriots — took a vicious hit by Mo Lewis that would knock him out with internal damage. The injury was said to be so bad, that doctors nearly cut open his chest to get a better look. On a third-down scramble for the first down, Bledsoe damn near lost his life as he was jacked out of bounds. Just six months before his injury, Bledsoe had signed a 10-year contract extension with the Patriots. But, from that point on, Tom Brady was the starting quarterback for New England — a role he hasn’t relinquished since.
After starting the season at 0-2, with their backup under center, the Pats went 11-3 to finish the season, good enough for the No. 2 Seed in the AFC Playoffs. They fought their way through the playoffs and to the AFC Championship game against the Oakland Raiders — and then the Tuck Rule happened.
Charles Woodson, one of the fiercest defensive backs to ever play the game, got loose and stripped Tom Brady with 1:12 left in the game. Let’s call it how it is — that was a damn fumble! Everyone knows that was a fumble. But, when you play with the devil, the devil don’t play fair. The call would get reversed, the Patriots would hit a field goal in the snow to send them to their first Super Bowl under Brady, and the Tuck Rule would be the first building block of a legendary career.
Well, you probably know how this story has unfolded since — with Tom Brady going on to win five Super Bowls in his career. One of them, a 21-point second half comeback, came just last year in Super Bowl 51. Another happened thanks to an asinine pass call on the goal line with under 20 seconds left, and one against the same foe he’ll face this weekend — the Philadelphia Eagles. The only two blemishes on Tom Brady’s Super Bowl resume? Those would be to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, which goes to show that not all heroes wear capes. Thanks Eli.
Come Sunday, Tom Brady will once again take his shot at another Super Bowl victory. He continues to break from all logic, unsheathing some of the best football we’ve seen ever as he enters his 40s. He tells us the way he’s transformed his diet, how he trains, how he studies and how he sleeps in order to play at this level, at this age. That’s something we’ve never seen done before in any professional sport. But, what he’s not telling us, is how much his soul was worth.
Now, I have no proof that Brady did, in fact, sell his soul to the devil. None beyond the feeling I get in my loins when I look at his career in its entirety. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he’s just that great. Or maybe, maybe, maybe there’s a reason that goats have horns...
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