Half way through the third quarter of Super Bowl LI, my wife, who is always pretty accurate at predicting what will happen in sporting events, leaned over and said, "If Brady gets the ball back, he's so pissed off that he will bring them back." Well, like most times, she was right.
When Mike Powell broke the World Record in the Long Jump in 1991, after running around the track in celebration thinking that the meet was over, he stopped for a second and looked at the end of the runway. There stood 6x [at the time] Olympic Champion Carl Lewis, getting ready for his last jump. Powell said that he thought to himself, 'Holy Shit. I just pissed off the greatest athlete in the world. He's gonna break my World Record." Now, Lewis would break Powell's WR on that jump, but it was considered at foul and Powell's record would stand [as it still does today].
I tell this story because I could only imagine what went through the heads of the Falcon's players after they took a 25 point lead. Although elated, someone had to have realized that they just pissed off the greatest quarterback in history. And what we saw last night was a culmination of all of Brady's jaw-dropping work ethic, skills, and most importantly - his mental toughness. You could make a list a mile long of all the attributes Brady has a what makes him the player he is. We wanted to give you what we thought where the top three. Here they are:
He Trains Like a Rookie
In the post game interviews, a teammate of Brady's was asked how he thinks his quarterback is able to do this year after year. He answered, "he acts like a rookie. You see him at the field before every one else, breaking down film more, doing simple drills over and over. If he is working that hard, it makes us all have to get to that level just to stay on the team."
He's Got GRIT
Grit [having the passion and perseverance to succeed over time] has become a more popular topic in football recently, as Pete Carroll and the Seahawks talk about building a 'culture of Grit.' Those who are at the top of the grit scale are those who not just a have deep passion for something, but are able to continuously persevere. Those of us who have followed Brady's career know not only about the hard work - but the failure that he has overcome. Getting drafted in the 6th round, losing to the Giants [twice], and Deflate-Gate as just a few examples. But he always comes back - with more focus and determination. THAT is perseverance. And it's hard to imagine someone who has had a deeper passion for his craft than Brady. This not only is apparent from his work ethic, but the longevity of that work ethic. While most people stay in one job less than 8 years, Brady has done it [all with one franchise mind you] over 17 years. So the next time you are tired of your job or want to quit - just realize that the 'Tom Brady' of your team or office is getting up while you are still laying down. Because it matters that much to them.
He Plays One Play at a Time
We talk about playing life one moment at a time a lot on this blog. Lots of people talk about it, but few actually do it. Brady does. An interception doesn't phase him - he knows he will get another chance. A fumble doesn't discourage him - he knows he is gonna get the ball back. He is not worried about what happened in the past longer than he has to - because he knows he is going to get more opportunities. That is what playing the game one play, pitch, or moment at a time means. It means that the only thing that matters is what is right in front of you. THAT play, THAT pitch, THAT moment. Winning the game, and the outcome does matter, but if you can't be engaged in the moment - nothing else matters.
On a personal note, I have been lucky enough in my life time to see what I have considered the Mount Rushmore of Athletes - Jordan, Armstrong, Woods, Gretzky, Williams [Serena]. All the best I have ever seen. All of these people are not perfect [much like Brady], but what we have seen in the last 25 years from these men and women is something that we will talk about for the rest of our lives. Last night was something special, and whether we see something like that again really doesn't matter. What we saw was history in the form of Tom Brady. Because winners win. That is what they do. And that is what he did.