Tom Brady can be defined by this one word

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Tom Brady can be defined by this one word

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I’ve spent exactly 25 seconds in the company of Tom Brady, during a grip-and-grin moment at a Tony Robbins event. He and his then Patriots teammate and receiver Julian Edelman were posing for photos with gobsmacked attendees.  My twin 14-year-old sons and I were waiting our turn.

When we stepped up for the photo, Brady unconsciously put his arm around the shoulders of one of my sons. To me, the gesture spoke volumes about who Tom Brady really is.

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A lot of fans despise Brady, perhaps because he’s so successful, and in our society, we love to tear down those who excel. Some fans of other teams hold grudges against Brady because he beat them again and again. Others see him as a cheater and a fraud (witness Spygate and Deflategate).

I’m not going to relitigate those issues; I will say that most people with real knowledge of the Patriots’ two “scandals” agree that Brady had nothing to do with either.

FILE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) holds the Vince Lombardi trophy following the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay won 31-9.

FILE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) holds the Vince Lombardi trophy following the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay won 31-9.
(Ben Liebenberg via AP)

To me, Brady is a well-raised individual who holds himself and those around him to higher standards than most of us would ever hold ourselves. His success is a function of those high standards, not just good genes or good coaching or good looks or good luck. Tom Brady is simply better at football than most of us are at whatever we do, because he expects more of himself than anyone else might.

The Brady myth centers on his keeping a chip on his shoulder because it took so long for him to become a starter at Michigan and because he was drafted 199th, in the sixth round. 

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It’s inconceivable, however, that resentment would be the sole source of the most successful career in the history of the NFL. Rather, and feel free to say that I’m being a sap, Brady is successful because of a concept we don’t traditionally associate with football:  love.

Brady’s love of football? Unparalleled. How else would someone continue to put his body at risk, to take those brutal hits, to put in all those endless hours of work and study, if one didn’t love the game.

FILE – Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches from the sidelines during the 2nd quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. 

FILE – Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches from the sidelines during the 2nd quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. 
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

His love of teammates? How many players can you name who took as personal an interest in the well-being of the human beings in his or her workplace, in any field? Have you ever brought an individual with the baggage of an Antonio Brown into your home, to live with your family, and to see the potential in him and not just the legitimately troubling criminal or mental health issues?

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His love of improvement? You can scoff at Brady’s concept of “pliability,” but whether you’re 24 or 64, Brady is most likely in better shape than you are. In his book “Gridiron Genius,” Michael Lombardi quotes Bill Belichick as saying that experience does not equal preparation. Have you ever encountered anyone as interested in growth, improvement, and continuous preparation than Brady? His past teammates today are broadcasters, coaches, or just plain out of the football business. If Brady weren’t married, he’d probably play until he could draw Social Security.

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His love of character? Athletes live in a fishbowl today. They have nowhere to hide. Any bad act is immediate fodder for the news media and social media. How many stories can you point to about Tom Brady running into trouble with police, women not his wife, gambling, drugs or alcohol? The next time will be the first time.

FILE – ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Vivian Lake Brady after his 13-3 win against Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FILE – ATLANTA, GEORGIA – FEBRUARY 03:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Vivian Lake Brady after his 13-3 win against Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

People love to hate Brady, perhaps because he reminds us that we can be so much better than we actually are. It’s just that we don’t want to put in the work that’s necessary so that we could be the person we were meant to be.

For me, the real Tom Brady isn’t just the guy who won all those Super Bowls, who set all those records, and who partnered for two decades with the greatest coach in NFL history.

It’s the man who unconsciously put his hand around my son’s shoulders, a kid who was and remains a total stranger to him. Brady knows how much he means to people, who see him as an old-fashioned hero, the kind who strives to do the right thing. He knows that people, kids especially, adore him, and a gesture like that, spontaneous, unstudied, unrehearsed, clearly reciprocates that feeling. 

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The word that sums up Tom Brady’s life isn’t touchdowns or yards or rings.

It’s love.

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