How Tom Brady Became an Icon: Trials, Triumph and Time
Tom Brady is one of the most polarizing figures in sports history. Love or hate the Patriots, the New England quarterback has undeniably led his team to more success than most NFL players (or any professional athletes) could imagine.
Number 12 will go down in history as one of the greatest NFL players and most influential athletes of all time. His unrivaled career has been inspiring for football fans to behold. Yet for all of the highs – and there have been many – Brady has hit just as many lows.
Let’s take a journey through the life of Tom Brady, as he blossoms from a young hopeful into Touchdown Tom, the most successful NFL quarterback of all time.
1. The Tom Brady Bunch
On August 3, 1977, Tom and Galynn Brady welcomed the newest member of their family, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. They didn’t know it at the time, but Tom Brady would become a household name. Little Tommy was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area in San Mateo, CA.
Tom Jr. grew up the youngest of four children with three older sisters: Maureen, Nancy and Julie. With three older siblings who were highly involved in athletics year-round, the youngest Brady sibling developed a competitive spirit at an early age.
2. Witnessing Greatness
Tom followed his sisters’ heavy involvement in an array of sports, competing in everything he could as a kid. Growing up in the Bay Area, however, there was nothing he was more passionate about than rooting for the San Francisco 49ers.
Brady developed many fond Niners memories to carry with him. He grew up watching NFL legends Joe Montana and Steve Young throughout his childhood. Brady was even at Candlestick Park for the famous “The Catch” game.
3. Two-Sport Stud
Brady attended an all-boys Catholic high school, Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, CA. He didn’t just restrict his talents to one sport, though. In the fall, he suited up for football; in the spring, he switched helmets to play baseball.
Perhaps football was in Brady’s DNA more than he realized. The quarterback kept his protective pads on in both football and baseball, finding his niche behind home plate as a catcher. Brady also played basketball, though he charitably saved some glory for other athletes. Such a thoughtful young man.
4. A Very Different Future, Almost
Brady was such a standout star on his high school baseball team, he could have had a legitimate future in the sport. Brady is known as a cerebral quarterback (relying on his mind over physical attributes), a characteristic which transferred to his ability as a catcher. Couple that with the fact that Brady was a lefty batter, and baseball scouts saw a star in the making.
Seriously, scouts were so impressed that the now-defunct Montreal Expos selected Brady in the 1995 MLB draft. They even offered to pay Brady second to third-round value, despite taking him in the 18th round. If not for Expos outfielder Frank-Paul Santangelo, Tom Brady’s future could have been quite different.
During Brady’s visit with the team, Santangelo was confident in what the young athlete should do. “Go play football at Michigan,” Santangelo told Brady. When Pats Nation thanks the football gods for gifting Tom Brady to New England, they should also remember to thank Santangelo for his advice to the very special California kid.
5. Riding Pine
Despite a potentially promising career in baseball, Brady left California to play football at the University of Michigan in 1996. In Brady’s sophomore year, the Wolverines improved on their impressive 8-4 record with an undefeated 12-0 season. They capped the year off with a Rose Bowl victory.
However, Brady was riding pine through the first two years of his college career. While Brady sat on the bench, it was QB Scott Dreisbach under center for the Wolverines in ’96 and future Pro Bowl QB Brian Griese who led the national championship charge in ’97.
6. Stepping Up
The only stats Brady had to show after his first two seasons were 15 passes completed for 129 yards, an interception, and two rushing attempts for -14 yards. As a junior, Brady finally got his opportunity to shine when he was named the starting quarterback.
Brady led University of Michigan to an impressive 10-3 season. The Wolverines capped off the strong campaign through ’98 by beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers to claim the 1999 Florida Citrus Bowl title.
Even after a standout season, the maize and blue had yet another tough test in store.
7. A Step in the Wrong Direction
Almost as soon as Brady finally got the spotlight to himself, he was forced to share it in his senior year with QB Drew Henson.
The two quarterbacks had much in common. Like Brady, Henson was mostly relegated to the bench his freshman year (1998). Henson was also a special talent – named High School Player of the Year by USA Today and Gatorade – who could have jumped ship to play baseball.
To avoid Henson leaving the school, Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr gave the sophomore an increased role. Henson passed for 546 in ’99, dealing a significant blow to Brady’s opportunity to showcase his skills.
Despite this step backwards, Brady kept his composure and led the Wolverines to a victory over Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl.
8. Shattered Reality
Even though Brady didn’t get a chance to shine until his junior year, and then was forced to share time under center as a senior, his success at Michigan was indisputable. A terrible NFL Scouting Combine performance did not help, though.
It looked like Brady had a parachute strapped on during his 40-yard dash and his now-infamous combine picture effectively erased all of his collegiate success. Brady entered the 2000 NFL draft with hopes of being taken off the board in the second or third round. Yet it wasn’t until Pick 199 in Round 6 that a devastated Brady was selected by the New England Patriots.
“You’re our sixth-round pick,” owner Robert Kraft told Brady over the phone.
“I’m the best decision this organization has ever made,” Brady replied.
In that moment, the GOAT was born.
9. Rookie Treatment
Selecting a quarterback in the sixth (or any) round seemed like an odd choice for the Patriots. It was especially odd considering they had former No. 1 overall pick and 3x Pro Bowler Drew Bledsoe on their roster. The Pats also had a competent veteran in John Friesz.
Brady had a fellow rookie to compete with in Michael Bishop, who ended up playing eight games to Brady’s lone appearance that season. So, it was back to bench duty for 23-year-old Brady, who would only have one completed pass on three attempts by season’s end.
10. Diving In Headfirst
Things were looking up for Brady by his second season. Michael Bishop had played his one and only NFL season and John Friesz had called it a career, making Brady the new backup quarterback. In the second game of the season, starting QB Drew Bledsoe took a hit from New York Jets LB Mo Lewis that forced him out of the game.
When No. 11 exited the field, No. 12 entered and never looked back. It turned out that Bledsoe had suffered a sheared blood vessel, which forced him to miss extended time. Brady led New England to an 11-5 record – two of those losses were in the first two games, which Bledsoe had started.
11. Straight to the Top
Brady had spent more than enough time sitting in the background while others enjoyed the limelight. He played his heart out in every game, earning a Pro Bowl selection. And, perhaps more importantly, ensuring that Bledsoe would not reclaim his spot under center when he was cleared to play.
In the AFC Championship, Bledsoe actually got another opportunity to take the field after Brady went down with a leg injury. Bledsoe helped lead the Pats to the Super Bowl, but it was Brady who shocked the world in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Pats beat the odds as 14-point underdogs, taking down the St. Louis Rams 20-17. In just one year, Brady went from fourth-string benchwarmer to Super Bowl MVP.
12. Patriots Perks
After years of hard work and overcoming countless hurdles, Tom Brady became a household name. Everyone wanted to know more about this new leader, who had improbably turned around a team that finished 5-11 the season before. Brady was suddenly the face of New England.
Being the face of an NFL team certainly has its perks. In ’02, Brady started dating 1997 Playmate of the Year Layla Roberts. It’s safe to say that Brady enjoyed his share of success both on and off the field.
13. Sticking with the Stars
Brady’s celebrity life in ’02 didn’t wane, even though the Patriots’ season took a dip with Brady as the official new starting quarterback.
After dating the beautiful Layla Roberts for some months, Touchdown Tom scored again with a big-screen beauty. Brady’s next celeb fling was with actress Tara Reid.
Reid starred in some of the hottest films of the time, like American Pie. Not to mention Brady went from a fourth-stringer to a Super Bowl champion – that’s one heck of a turnaround.
14. Staying on the Big Stage
The Super Bowl hangover was real. The Pats went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in ’02, but Brady stepped up to the challenge to prove ’01 was no fluke. New England soon became a juggernaut, bulldozing its competition to a 14-2 season.
The Pats marched straight through the playoffs to Super Bowl XXXVIII. It was another close one, but after a game-winning field goal from K Adam Vinatieri, Brady’s Pats were back on top of the world. Brady had racked up two Super Bowl appearances, two championships, and two Super Bowl MVPs in three years.
But he was just getting started.
15. Continued Excellence
By the time 2004 came, even the most adamant deniers of Brady’s excellence were forced to submit. Brady led the Pats to a second straight 14-2 season, then torched the competition to reach a third Super Bowl. On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles were prepared for a fight.
The 13-3 Eagles were equally loaded with superstar talent, but they didn’t have Brady at QB. There was no question after the big game. The third Super Bowl victory in four years confirmed what everyone already suspected. The Patriots were a dynasty, and Tom Brady was king.
16. Getting Serious
Every king needs his queen, and Brady had his in actress and model Bridget Moynahan. While Brady playoff excellence was putting his name among some of the all-time greats, Moynahan was breaking out as a star with in her own right, with her biggest film role yet in “I, Robot.”
They were a power couple that spanned celebrity genres. The two dated for three years, to the envy of many. Even as Brady’s popularity reached new heights, he stayed true to his roots. Brady kept close ties with his family and personal relationships, rather than running wild to soak in the bachelor life.
17. Getting Silly
Intense as New England’s new hero can be on the field, he showed the world that there was more to him than his fiercely competitive spirit. From 2005-06, Brady revealed his silly side on television. He hosted Saturday Night Live and voiced himself on both The Simpsons and Family Guy.
It was quite a showcase for Brady, starring in classic SNL sketches like how to be an “appropriate coworker” with Fred Armisen. On The Simpsons, Brady was surrounded by superstar athletes like LeBron James and Michelle Kwan. And of course the “Patriots Games” Family Guy episode still stands as one of the most memorable among the show’s early seasons.
18. A New Beginning
Playtime was over. After dating for three years, Brady and Moynahan called it quits in December 2006. But the end of one relationship didn’t stop a new one from beginning soon after. Later that month, a friend of Brady’s set him up with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Bundchen had previously had her share of megastar relationships, dating the likes of actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pro surfer Kelly Slater. The highly successful Victoria’s Secret model and new face of the NFL turned their blind date into true love.
19. A Special Surprise
Just as things were heating up for the new power couple, a very big monkey wrench was thrown into their relationship. In February of 2007, Brady’s ex-girlfriend, Bridget Moynahan, announced that she was three months pregnant.
Understandably, the news blindsided both Brady and Bundchen. Brady himself wasn’t alerted until just before Moynahan made the announcement public. Although the unexpected news presented a hurdle to Brady and Gisele’s new relationship, the three came together to proactively co-parent John “Jack” Edward Thomas Moynahan after his birth in August ’07.
20. Almost Perfect
In 2007, Brady defied expectations of what is possible in professional sports. Tom Terrific officially became known as Touchdown Tom, as he passed for a mind-boggling 50 touchdowns in the regular season, beating Peyton Manning’s then-record 49 TDs in ’04.
Even more stunning, the Patriots cruised through the season to a perfect 16-0 record. Brady, the AP Male Athlete of the Year, once again led the Pats to the Super Bowl. They were one minute away from beating the New York Giants – only to be robbed of the opportunity thanks to Giants WR David Tyree’s helmet catch.
20. Stubborn Student
Tom Brady doesn’t just set the tone for his teammates, he does so for his coaching staff. Brady’s attention to detail and desire to be 10 steps ahead of everyone else forces his coaches to constantly be on their A-game.
Houston Texans head coach and former Patriots quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien had this to say of Brady:
“One of the most difficult jobs you can have is coaching Tom because he wants to be coached. You coach him every single day, every minute of the day, and all year round because he’s all football. He’s a phenomenal guy and the reason why he is what he is, is because he’s obsessed with football … so when you’re coaching him you better be ready to go at a moment’s notice whether it’s for a meeting, or practice or game.”
21. Back to Square One
It was a nearly perfect season, mesmerizing fans in every way imaginable. Brady’s superhuman season earned him his first NFL Most Valuable Player award. Such an honor would be a hallmark achievement, had the shocking Super Bowl loss not left such a sour taste.
It was time for revenge. But just as everything was ruined in an instant at the end of Brady’s last season, the same went for the beginning of the next one. In the Patriots’ season opener against Kansas City, Chiefs DB Bernard Pollard hit Brady low in the fourth quarter. Brady suffered a torn ACL and MCL, effectively ending his comeback before it began.
23. Tom Begins His Own Brady Bunch
Brady’s run for redemption would have to wait an extra season, so in the meantime the quarterback got in some more family time. After dating for two years, Brady and Gisele were ready to take their relationship to the next level.
On February 26, 2009, the two married in Santa Monica, CA. They celebrated the special occasion out of the public eye, with only 20 guests who were close family and friends. After tying the knot in California, they enjoyed a second exclusive wedding ceremony in Costa Rica in April.
24. Captain America’s Comeback
Thanks to his devastating injury, it took an extra year until Brady got a shot at redemption from the heart-wrenching loss in Super Bowl XLII. Once he recovered, Brady was finally ready for his return. It was like he never missed a step.
Brady was back in top form, earning a Pro Bowl selection for yet another standout season. Brady’s impressive return under center was notable enough to earn him the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year award.
Plus, Brady enjoyed even one more special moment to cap off a great year…
25. Adding to the Brady Bunch
What could have made 2009 any better for Brady? He married the most beautiful woman in the world, and had an outstanding return after a devastating injury. Then, in December 2009, Brady and Gisele welcomed son Benjamin Rein Brady to the family.
They made the decision to deliver the baby at their home. On December 8, Gisele had a water birth, claiming that it didn’t even hurt.
Somehow, Brady’s wild rollercoaster of highs and lows only gets crazier!
26. Switching Sides
After Brady proved to skeptics he was still Tom Terrific after surgery, he also showed that the Brady brand was ready to reach new heights. 2010 ushered in a new era of endorsements, proving No. 12 is as savvy of a businessman as he is a quarterback.
Brady left his sponsor, athletic wear giant Nike, to sign with up-and-coming brand Under Armour. UA had been rapidly growing since its inception in 1996, but Tom Brady was by far the biggest name yet to represent the company.
What made the deal worth switching sides for Brady? The savvy QB made an investment of it, taking stock in the company rather than cash. The deal has definitely paid off, with plenty of sweet profits.
27. Fashion Icon
Brady’s stock in Under Armour has made him millions, but his next sponsorship made him a fashion icon. Okay, so Gisele definitely has her husband beat in the fashion category, but the campaign Brady took on just one month after signing with Under Armour is still legendary. The UGG campaign, of course.
In arguably one of the boldest moves of his career, Brady ignored the haters and became the most famous ambassador for a brand previously essential among surfers and teenage girls. The new face of the UGG for Men campaign likely caused much head-scratching among Pats Nation and Under Armour fans.
Considering the season Captain America was having, football fans were likely more impressed by another momentous occasion, though.
28. Tom Terrific Part II
After winning three Super Bowls, No. 12 could get away with just about anything. After an outstanding 2010 NFL season and a second MVP selection, he could even get away with wearing UGG boots.
Now that the comeback period was over, it was time for Brady to climb back to the top.
Like clockwork, Brady barreled through opposing defenses, setting the tone for the rest of the league. Brady’s outstanding season-long performance resulted in 36 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
That unbelievable efficiency earned Brady his second MVP award. The GOAT just kept collecting that bling.
29. Another Giant Problem
Even following an MVP season, Brady managed to outperform himself, passing for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his career. It looked like another fantastic season and fairytale ending were in the books, as the Pats once again met the Giants in the Super Bowl.
In a grueling defensive showdown, New England clung to a two-point lead with four minutes left in the game. Brady passed to WR Wes Welker. Welker, who had caught all seven of his previous targets, dropped the wide-open pass, eventually leading to a Giants touchdown in the final minute of the game.
Super Bowl XLVI spelled the same crushing fate for Brady and the Patriots as their first bout with the G-Men.
30. Broadening Boston’s Brady Bunch
Starting 2012 with another heart wrenching Super Bowl loss was rough, but there were good things to come off the field. In April, Brady’s sister Julie, married Red Sox first/third baseman Kevin Youkilis. The private wedding simply added to the royal Brady bloodline.
Brady, who was already a guaranteed future Hall of Famer at this point, now had another great Boston athlete as his brother-in-law. Youkilis, who raked in three All-Star selections, won two World Series, a Golden Glove award (2007) and Hank Aaron Award (2008).
31. Third Time’s the Charm
Not only did Brady’s extended family grow with his sister’s wedding, his own brood grew as well. In December 2012, Gisele gave birth to Vivian Lake Brady, adding the first daughter to the ever-growing Brady bunch.
It seems like Brady has knack for timing when it comes to December babies. His first son, Jack, was conceived in December; son Benjamin was born December 9; and daughter Vivian joined the party on December 5. The Brady kids must not want to miss out on the NFL playoffs.
32. The Butler Did It
In 2013, the Patriots were stopped short of another Super Bowl appearance by the Denver Broncos. That story changed in 2014 though, when a 37-year-old Brady proved that age is just a state of mind. As yet another dominant season continued through the playoffs, the Pats dismantled the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship, winning 45-7.
New England faced a daunting task, pitted against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Seattle’s impenetrable “Legion of Boom” defense posed a major threat to Brady’s explosive offense. It was the Pats defense, however, that won the game in the finals seconds when CB Malcolm Butler snagged the game-winning interception.
The Super Bowl celebration didn’t last long, however, after the duck boats were put away and the parade was over. On May 6, 2015 the NFL published a 243-page report alleging that the Patriots had intentionally under-inflated their footballs below the legal pounds per square inch in their blowout AFC Championship win.
Just about everyone threw their two cents into the argument over the now infamous scandal known as Deflategate. Athletes, fans, and even scientists weighed in.
Brady beat the allegations in court. However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell filed an appeal and the initial ruling was overturned. After playing through the entirety of the 2015 season, Brady eventually conceded the fight, accepting a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season.
34. Making the Brady Brand
After leading the Patriots to their fourth straight 12-4 record in 2015, Brady’s playoff run was once again cut short by Peyton Manning’s Broncos in the AFC Championship.
January of ’16 wasn’t all bad for Brady, though. The sports (and fashion) icon added to his business mogul status with the launch of his TB12 brand. The company began selling equipment and merch before expanding to an all-around lifestyle brand.
TB12 started offering an array of organic snacks by August, then added a full line of “performance meals” in March 2017. In September, Brady published his first book, titled “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance.”
True to Tom Brady form, the book was a smash hit. Within 48 hours, it reached No. 1 on Amazon’s bestsellers list and went on to hit No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
35. Beating Unfathomable Odds
Once Brady finished serving his suspension, the 39-year-old QB was back with a vengeance. The Pats went 11-1 with Brady back at the helm. An outstanding regular season put TB12 in the MVP conversation, though he finished runner-up to Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan.
Ryan’s MVP selection set the stage for a perfect drama, since the NFC Champion Falcons were facing off against the Pats in Super Bowl LI.
It looked like Ryan’s MVP award was well deserved, as he led Atlanta to a massive first half lead of 21-3. That lead grew to 38-3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
With the odds stacked against him, Tom Brady led the Patriots on a run that is considered the greatest comeback in NFL history. New England made one stunning play after another, beating all odds to overcome the 18-point deficit, tie the game, and win it in overtime.
This NFL-record fifth Super Bowl victory was surely one of, if not the sweetest, of them all.
36. Tom vs. Time
At age 40, Brady continues to defy any preconceived notions that age presents an insurmountable obstacle for athletes. Instead, he’s continuing to play at a high level. For a man who has accomplished so much, it seems the test of time is one of the few challenges Brady has left to conquer.
Recently, Brady surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. He finished 2017 with a 13-3 record, leading the league in passing yards and earning his third First-Time All-Pro selection.
The ageless wonder has documented his journey to secure a sixth Super Bowl in a docu-series titled “Tom vs. Time” on Facebook Watch. The story of the aging athlete, and his journey to defy all odds in the quest to be the greatest of all time, is a script that is too grand even for Hollywood.
Such is the life of No. 12.