Tom Brady - Two Decades as a History-Making NFL Star

On January 10, 2015, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes to take his team to victory over the Baltimore Ravens. In doing so, he broke the National Football League’s postseason touchdown record, one previously held by his boyhood idol, Joe Montana. Characteristically a team player, Brady noted that all those passes had teammates on the other side of them. “Those are team awards,” he told the media.

That 2015 comeback win for the Patriots moved them into their slot in the American Football Conference championship match-up, and eventually to their first Super Bowl in a decade. Brady’s leadership as starting QB ended up giving the Patriots a total of nine AFC Championship wins over the 2001 to 2019 period and a resulting six Superbowl trophies. 

Brady announced his retirement from professional football on February 1, 2022, a year after capturing his seventh Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over his 22-year-long professional career, he has earned three NFL Most Valuable Player awards and holds the record of five Super Bowl MVP awards.

Football genealogy

Born in San Mateo, California, in 1977, Tom Brady grew up going to San Francisco 49ers games and idolizing quarterback Montana, who took the team to four Super Bowl wins from 1982 to 1990. Brady once shared a photo of himself as a young child in a 49ers jersey posing in the stance of “Joe Cool.” Montana earned the nickname for his self-control and for his steadfast, inspiring leadership—qualities that Brady would also develop. Steve Young, who became San Francisco’s starting QB in 1991 after Montana was injured, was another of young Tom Brady’s heroes.

Brady’s athletic prowess became evident during his high school years, when he showed exceptional talent in baseball and football. In 1995 he was selected by the Montreal Expos in that year’s Major League Baseball draft, but he chose a football career at the University of Michigan. Although he took the Wolverines to victory in the Orange Bowl in 1999, most observers thought of him as smart and focused but lacking stand-out physical skills.

The Patriots picked him in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He spent his first season working hard on gaining physical mass, strength, and finesse.

First tastes of stardom

Drew Bledsoe’s injury in the second game of the 2001 NFL season led the Pats to put Brady in as starting QB. He didn’t do a spectacular job, but he minimized errors and stayed on track through a series of basic plays. That year, the Patriots posted 11-3 in regular-season play. In a stunning upset, they beat the St. Louis Rams—whose incredible offense was known as “The Greatest Show on Turf”—with a score of 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI, and Brady earned his first Super Bowl MVP.

He achieved his second Super Bowl MVP in 2004 when the Pats took down the Carolina Panthers 32-29. Over the following season, the Patriots racked up 21 consecutive wins, shattering the Miami Dolphins’ record 18 earned more than three decades previously. Then in 2005 the Pats and their star QB racked up another Super Bowl win, this time over the Philadelphia Eagles (24-21). That one wasn’t Brady’s most stellar game in terms of his own scoring, and the MVP award went to Patriots’ wide receiver Deion Branch, who finished with 11 receptions over 133 yards.

Fueled by defeat

Super Bowl XLII closed out the Pats’ 16-0 spectacular 2007 season, but Brady and the team were defeated by the New York Giants in a startling 17-14 upset. That loss is the one that seems to have hurt Brady the most over his career. After that, he lost another Super Bowl to the Giants. He’s consistently said that remembering the loss has proved to be a strong motivator—and he has always celebrated most after beating that team in later games.

Late-career glory and scandal

In 2015 Brady and the Patriots made their Super Bowl comeback when they won over the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 after being down 10 points toward the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter saw Brady rallying with the two touchdown passes that put the Pats into the lead. 

That signal victory came on the heels of “Deflategate,” the scandal that enmeshed Brady during AFC post-season play. The Indianapolis Colts claimed the Patriots deliberately—and in contravention of NFL rules—let air out of footballs to better accommodate Brady’s grip.

Officials did find that some of the Patriots’ footballs used in the AFC championship game with the Colts lacked the required air pressure. While the Pats denied the accusations of deliberate malfeasance, the NFL administered penalties to both Brady and the team. Brady vociferously contested his four-game suspension, and the case ultimately went to the United States Court of Appeals.

An even bigger Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons came in 2017, with Brady leading a historic overtime comeback from a 25-point deficit. In 2019 he became the oldest QB ever to win a Super Bowl when the Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3. 

Brady went to the Bucs in 2020, a move that commentators noted as ultimately giving him greater control over his games. Then the Bucs took the trophy in Super Bowl LV with a score of 31-9, humiliating the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The retirement that wasn’t

News of his retirement turned the world of football upside down, as the end of an era seemed to have come. But then it didn’t. After 40 days of retirement, Brady announced he’d rethought his decision. With his passion for competition still sharp, he committed to playing at least another season with the Bucs. 

Brady may be as well known outside sports fans’ circles for his jet-set marriage to model Gisele Bündchen. The couple has two children, and Brady has another child from his previous relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan. Bündchen responded to Brady’s retirement with expressions of pride in his accomplishments, then quickly wrote supportive messages on his Instagram after his turnaround announcement. “Here we go again!” she posted. Brady emphasized that he decided to return after talking it through with her and his family.

His self-discipline in training and working out mentally and physically year-round, his strong work ethic, and his focus on demanding a lot from both his teammates and himself could just be enough to give Brady—as he approaches the age of 45—the momentum to drive the Bucs to yet another power season. 

Brady may be getting the glory, but the real winners here are the fans.