The Profile Dossier: Tom Brady, the Greatest Quarterback of All Time
“If you don’t play to win, don’t play at all.”
Ever since he turned 30 years old, people have been asking Tom Brady when he will retire. He answered their questions not with words, but with actions.
Two decades since he was drafted into the NFL, the 43-year-old quarterback shows no signs of stopping as he prepares to make his 10th Super Bowl appearance.
"I always said my mid-40s," he said in 2017 about the prospect of retirement, "and naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."
After 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, Brady could've called it quits, but he didn't. In 2020, he became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading them to the Super Bowl for the first time since their appearance in 2003.
For all the glitz and glory, Brady wasn't an obvious success story. In fact, no one is more surprised than the people who knew him as a young "Tommy" Brady. When he started as a quarterback on his junior varsity high school football team for the first time, he was sacked 15 times.
Disaster was an understatement. His old coach Joe Hession says, “It was the worst beating of my life, and it made you want to walk off and go to a bar and quit."
Hession didn't quit, and neither did Brady. They made it to the West Catholic Athletic League championship game that year, in which Brady made a mistake that cost his team the title.
But Brady had something that his peers didn't — a thirst for knowledge, an internal fire that fueled him to improve, and an insatiable desire to compete. "Football is more than just what I do," he says. "It consumes me."
Brady is considered the greatest quarterback of all time, but it's not just about skill or his love for the game. It's about getting to the top — and staying there.
If you look closely, Brady's moments of success often follow devastating failures. It always goes back to "Tommy" Brady — an aspiring football player with a chip on his shoulder determined to prove people wrong. But today, it's less about proving other people wrong and more about proving himself right.
"At this point in my career, the only person I have to prove anything to is myself," he says. "Deep down I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. Now I want to see it in action."
On leaving the Patriots: This profile explores what the greatest quarterback of all time is still chasing. Apparently, it’s something he’s been chasing for years. And he’s not doing this just to prove the Patriots wrong, but to rediscover an essential version of himself. Are you actually successful if you’re not successful on your own terms?
On becoming a monster quarterback: In high school, "Tommy" Brady was considered a better baseball player — as a left-handed-hitting catcher with power, he would be drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round. When he decided to play football at Michigan, some of his high school coaches were worried. Brady assured everyone he would work his way into the lineup in Ann Arbor one way or another. This is the story of what happens when you believe in yourself more than the trusted mentors around you.
On making the biggest decision of his career: "What does it mean to change, and to challenge yourself, again and again?" That's the question Brady poses in this first-person article he penned for The Player's Tribune. In his own words, Brady explains his decision to leave The Patriots after 20 years with the team. "Changes and challenges are part of life. They’re part of athletes’ lives," he says. "They’re supposed to happen. They need to happen sometimes."
On becoming the GOAT: This multi-part podcast covers Brady's unparalleled career and longevity including his early years as a late-round draft pick and a 2nd-stringer, the unequaled highs of nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins with the New England Patriots, the 'Spygate' and 'Deflategate' scandals, his relationship with Donald Trump, the intense rivalry between Brady and Peyton Manning that changed the NFL, and his current, hotly-observed second life on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (In other words, it covers it all.)
On his new identity: Brady has thrived thanks to a chip on his shoulder he's had for as long as he can remember. Over the years, he's spent time constantly bettering himself personally and professionally. "Progress over perfection," Brady says. In this podcast, he delves deep and shares why he chose to leave the Patriots and start all over again.
On his road to success: This documentary is about Brady's humble beginnings. He was selected with pick number 199 in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. This film tracks Brady’s path to becoming one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Today, he has a Super Bowl ring for every quarterback picked before him in the draft, but he still feels like he has more to prove.
On his race against time: It seems as though Brady has aged backwards. He appears more youthful, more agile, and more durable than he did in his 20s — yet he's 43. Tom vs. Time is a multi-part series that explores Brady's race against time and the quest for the fountain of youth. (I recommend watching the second episode: "The Mental Game")
On what it means to be a competitor: In a 2018 interview at the Milken Institute, Brady explains the mentality of being a true competitor. Sure, he wants to win — in fact, he's only playing to win — but he also understands that it's about introspection. "I'm also playing to get the most out of myself because I love my career," he says. The second half of the interview dissects his sleep, diet, and lifestyle. This is a good one.
On how fatherhood changed him: Brady is a father to 3 kids, and he says his family has brought great perspective to his life. "You better be there and be available to them or else they'll look back on their life and think, 'Hey, dad didn't really care that much,'" he says. It's been tough for him to balance fame and fatherhood at times. One kid recently told his son: "I'm just friends with you because your dad's Tom Brady." Here's how he's learned to overcome the challenges that parenthood has presented.
TECHNIQUES TO TRY.
Make sure you're always playing to win: Here's a question to ask yourself: When you undertake a new task, do you play to win or do you play not to lose? There's a slight, but very important, difference. One is a mentality of being on offense while the other is being on defense. When you take on a new challenge, you might be playing to win in the beginning, but then you get complacent, and you're just trying to desperately ward off incoming competition. "The true competitors," Brady says, "are the ones who always play to win."
The joy of winning is about the pursuit: Brady famously said, "You wanna know which ring is my favorite? The next one." That's because it's not about the past performance for him. It's about proving that he can do it just one more time. “I don’t care about three years ago. I don’t care about two years ago. I don’t care about last year," he says. "The only thing I care about is this week.”
Limit inflammation in the body: Inflammation refers to your body's process of fighting against things that harm it in an attempt to heal itself. And Brady believes there are a number of ways you can harm it — through injury, unhealthy food, or even toxic thoughts. "It's pretty simple — you gotta limit inflammation in the body whether it's through diet, nutrition, or your thoughts," he says. A balanced diet applies to both food and content. Remember, what you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.
Build up your mental strength: For 5 to 10 minutes per day, Brady does brain exercises to improve his cognitive function on a daily basis. "How can I build up my brain strength so that whenever I do take a hit, there's a little bit of armor there," he says. "The games keep me sharp." (These are "the brain games" he plays.) The brain is a muscle, and you need to treat it as such.
Let your work speak for itself: When Brady made the decision to leave the Patriots, it didn't take long for people to cast their judgement. But to have made it this long in the NFL, Brady understands the one thing few of us do — only your work can prove the haters wrong. “I’m not a person who defends myself very often," he says. "I let my actions speak for me.” Consistent performance quiets the loudest of critics.
QUOTES TO REMEMBER.
"Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners."
“If you don’t play to win, don’t play at all.”
“If you don’t believe in yourself, why is anyone else going to believe in you?”
"I think sometimes in life, the biggest challenges end up being the best things that happen in your life."
"Things don’t correct themselves, you’ve got to go out there and work hard to correct them."
"When you lose, talk little. When you win, talk less."