By Shailey Klein
It’s time for Tom Brady to hang up the New England Patriots jersey and trade it in for new Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear. After a 20 year career in New England with Robert Kraft’s franchise and the Bill Belichick coaching dynasty, Brady feels it’s time to move on to the next chapter of his life.
Brady has left a lasting legacy second to none in the National Football League (NFL). No one else has achieved nearly as much success all with one team. Brady has appeared in nine Super Bowls, boasting six rings, and four Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards. The regular season, playoff, and Super Bowl records he holds go on and on.
All of the accolades attest to his outstanding performance on the field. However, his legacy goes much further beyond that. He’s inspired countless kids to pursue their dreams no matter the circumstance. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft with the 199th pick. His NFL Draft Combine picture is the epitome of an undersized, unprepared college quarterback with hopes of making it at the next level.
He’s proven to the world that you don’t have to be a Heisman Trophy Winner in college or a first round draft pick to become the greatest of all time. He’s not only an incredible athlete, but a team player whose drive to be the best is unmatched.
I had the privilege of meeting Brady when I was 10. My dad and I flew up to Boston for an action-packed weekend of sports. We went to a Patriots preseason game Friday night ironically against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, followed by a Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees baseball game Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. Those three days for sure make up one of the best weekends of my life. That Friday evening though, sticks out as hands down one of the most amazing nights of my life.
My dad is friends with Brady’s father, Tom Brady Sr., through business, so he was able to hook us up with unbelievable seats on the 50 yard line. Just before halftime, Brady Sr. came down to the seats to bring my dad and I up to the family box. I started to get jittery as he mentioned that Gisele Bündchen, Brady’s wife, and his kids might still be up there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to meet them, but I had a once in a lifetime experience watching the second half with the Brady’s. Brady Sr. knew the way to a 10-year-old’s heart enticing me with a huge dessert cart and I thought life couldn’t get any better as I chowed down on my carrot cake watching the Patriots play from the Brady’s box.
As the game was drawing to a close, Brady Sr. said, “Let’s go see Tommy.”. At that moment, I almost lost my mind. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He was going to take ME to go meet the greatest quarterback of all time?!? It couldn’t be real. I remember looking up at my dad for reassurance that I heard him right, and he just smiled at me. I went into the bathroom to get my composure before we went down to the players lounge after the game. I couldn’t stand still, but I distinctively remember looking in the mirror and telling myself, “Holy cow, you’re about to meet Tom Brady!” and I repeated that in my head a few times to let it sink in. Honestly, to this day, I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in.
Brady Sr. leads us down to the players lounge and I was dumbstruck at how everyone knew who he was and he was able to go wherever he wanted. To this day, I still have the tickets to the game as well as the wristbands with Brady’s jersey number, 12, written on it allowing us access everywhere since we were with him. Brady Sr. led us into Kraft’s box to then get onto the elevator to go down to the player’s lounge. Once we entered the players lounge, Brady Sr. told me it would probably be awhile until Tommy came out because he had to shower and meet with the press. In the meantime, Brady Sr. pulled me over and opened a random door. I had no idea what it was or where it led to, but as soon as I peaked my head inside, my jaw hit the floor. It was the press room and Belichick was standing right in front of me answer questions for the media. Of course, he was giving his typical snarky comments, being as vague as possible, but it was unreal to see it unfolding right before my eyes. We watched his press conference and then scooted back over to the players lounge waiting for Brady. Brady Sr. gave him a phone call and he said he was heading over.
Next thing I knew, he was standing there, right in front of me, and I was speechless. As a little 10-year-old girl, the 6’4’’ Brady seemed godly as he towered over me. He met us with a huge smile, eyes beaming, and his massive hands swallowed mine in a handshake. After introductions, he immediately struck up conversation with me. He asked me if I was into football and of course I jabbered away telling him about how I love watching football. We talked about being from Gainesville and us being huge Gator fans. He chuckled, mentioning how they have a few of those on their team. At the time, Gator greats Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes donned Patriots jerseys, and star tight end Aaron Hernandez was with the team for the last three seasons up until the previous offseason. I was starstruck and I could’ve talked to him for hours, but of course being Tom Brady has its responsibilities, so he bade us and his father farewell and headed to go talk to the media before he left the building.
I couldn’t believe that Tom Brady was a normal human being. In the conversation that I had with him, he could’ve been anyone. You would have never known that he was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots and Super Bowl MVP, holding numerous NFL records. He was just a normal guy striking up conversation with a young girl who’s enthralled by sports. He wanted to know what teams I rooted for and wanted to know what brought me to Foxborough. I’m forever grateful for the kindness he, and his father showed me. It has honestly had a huge impact on my life and further deepened my love for sports and desire to ultimately pursue a career in sports journalism.
The thing that strikes me most about Brady is how humble he is. The accolades are fantastic and he’s worked his entire life to be the best, but his devotion is greater than football. After he won his first Super Bowl, he gave his ring to his dad. The story still touches Brady Sr. as Brady knew his father was going to sneak it back into his suitcase, so he went the extra mile to make sure it ended up with his father before flying across the country. Brady Sr. knew how hard he worked for it and felt Brady deserved it, especially it being his first. There was no guarantee there would be more. That could have been Brady’s only ring, but he still wanted his dad to have it. Of course, now we know five more rings followed, but that desire for his dad to have the ring that he had worked so hard for shows his deep appreciation for the people who have helped him get to where he is now.
I’m beyond excited to see where this next journey takes him in Tampa. No matter the outcome, even if there’s no more Super Bowls, even if no more records are broken, in my eyes, Brady is still the greatest football player of all time. All of the awards, records, and his six rings, make it clear. However, the hard work Brady has put into the sport, paired with his dedication to his family and deep appreciation for those who have gotten him to where he is today, make him an even more phenomenal person.