In the early 2000s, as his Patriots teammates collected diamond championship rings after their Super Bowl wins, a 20-something Tom Brady, who had won three titles in his first four years as New England’s starting quarterback, was asked which of the boastful bling was his favourite.
“The next one,” the baby-faced Brady famously responded.
It was not just a cute answer, but an insight into the motivation that drove, and continues to drive, Brady’s insatiable quest for success across more than two decades atop the National Football League mountain.
The 43-year-old Brady, with his new team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, collected his most recent favourite ring on Sunday night with a 31-9 mauling of defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Brady joined Tampa Bay after 20 seasons with the Patriots following a split with legendary New England coach Bill Belichick that was one of the biggest stories in North American sports in 2020.
Brady joined a talented but underachieving Bucs squad that had not even qualified for the playoffs since 2007.
“One man”, according to his new head coach Bruce Arians, changed all that, as he brought his trademark leadership, drive and skill to his side filled with skilful teammates.
It was Brady’s 10th appearance in the Super Bowl, four more than any other player and twice as many as any other quarterback.
It was his seventh Super Bowl victory, two more than any other player and three more than any other quarterback.
He also secured his fifth Super Bowl MVP award, two more than anyone else.
Statistically, his most recent win was also one of better performances in the big game, throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
In many ways, Brady was as motivated, driven and productive as he was back in 2003-05 when the Patriots were the last NFL team to win consecutive Super Bowl titles.
“If I was going to say why he is so great, I’d say that the level of discipline, drive and willingness to compete under any circumstances are all traits that he has,” Christian Fauria, who played 13 seasons in the NFL as a tight end, including collecting a pair of diamond-filled Super Bowl rings playing with Brady in New England from 2002 to 2005, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s unbelievable how he’s able to achieve one goal and then not be satisfied with it, turn the page and do the same thing he just did to try [to] achieve that goal again,” added Fauria, who caught 13 career touchdown passes from Brady.
“That’s unbelievably exhausting. Most people, they reach the top and they are kind of satisfied with it. That was pretty incredible. He is just wired differently and he’s actually conditioned his body to be able to continually do that.”
Brady has not only dedicated his talents to his craft but has described himself as willing to “give up his life” to reach his championship goals. He attributes his remarkable health in a violent game to the year-round workout regime and strict diet he adheres to.
“Most guys his age, they break down,” Fauria said.
“Not only do they lose it physically, but that ends up killing them mentally. But that’s never happened to him. He doesn’t get physically and mentally exhausted. He’s always healthy and he’s always at an advantage.”
Brady has now essentially closed the door on questions of whether he’s the greatest quarterback of all time or even the most accomplished American football player in history.
Now, it is a legitimate debate whether Brady is the greatest, most accomplished athlete in American team sports, jockeying for the mythical title among the likes of NBA six-time championship legend Michael Jordan and MLB hero Babe Ruth, who changed the game in the early 1900s with his homeruns.
Not surprisingly to those paying attention to how he got the perch, Brady made it clear in the immediate aftermath of his most recent Super Bowl victory that he is not done.
He will be back in late 2021 for his 22nd NFL season at the age of 44, targeting yet another championship ring in Tampa Bay.
Fauria believes that Brady is essentially an addict – addicted to competition and winning that competition and he cannot stop.
“You kind of have to be kind of crazy in a way to convince yourself that this is what your life is,” said Fauria.