Yes, Tom Brady is still pissed he was drafted 199th overall. No, he isn't close to being finished.
Why is the GOAT still playing? The thrill of proving people wrong and the thrill of the game-winning drive. (We found footage of his first-ever GW drive, too.)
Good morning, everyone. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. And, hey, wouldn’t you know? Tom Brady will be storming out of the tunnel. Again. This is his 10th appearance in 20 years which is, truly, absurd.
The perspective has been beaten into our skulls by now but, honestly, it bears repeating.
Aaron Rodgers has made it to one of these games.
Drew Brees? One. Brett Favre? Two. Dan Marino? One. Philip Rivers? Zilch.
Ten. Freakin.’ Times.
The feat itself is remarkable but what’s most fascinating about Tom Brady — more than the stats and the wins and the highlights — is whatever thoughts are possibly running through his mind the month of February after reaching it to this mountaintop. After all of the physical and mental anguish of an NFL season, what on earth compels a middle-aged man to say, “Hey, let’s do that again.” After footballs sticking to helmets and Deflategate and 28-3 and palpable internal strife and a Philly Special of a loss to Nick Foles and, all in all, two decades of playing for the most hard-driving coach of this generation and you cannot help but ask this question repeatedly: Why? The man has a wife (a model who makes more money than he does) and three kids and houses all over the country and — in a world where we people cannot agree on anything — absolutely everyone agrees that Tom Brady is the greatest football player ever.
Maybe the greatest athlete ever. Period.
What is there to prove? Why in the hell, after so many emotionally draining Super Bowls, does Brady decide to come back for more?
As Drew Bledsoe indicated a few weeks back, Brady absolutely is motivated to win a ring without Belichick.
“Oh, there’s no question that’s the case,” said Bledsoe, who was fantastic throughout our chat that you can read in full here. “There’s no question. That’s the forever debate: Was it Bill or was it Tom? The Patriots took a big step back this year and, honestly, I think Tom was smart enough to see the writing on the wall. That they had done everything they could to stay on top and — for the first time — they were going to be in some salary cap issues. So I think part of him thought, ‘OK, I’m going to make a move here before this thing goes sideways.’ But then he went to a great situation in Tampa and obviously he’s played great again.
“There’s no question there’s motivation there for him to win one without Belichick.”
And the drive even runs deeper than that. Place a phone call to Brady’s hometown, to his first-ever No. 1 receiver through his JV and Varsity years at Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., and John Kirby brings up a conversation he recently had with the current Serra High coach: Patrick Walsh.
Walsh was hired by Brady back in 2001 — Brady was on the interview committee that made him the coach — and they’ve kept in touch since. The two recently chatted over a Zoom call and Brady, miraculously, told him he is still mad about something else…
Going 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
“He is still pissed off about that,” Walsh says. “He just has an internal desire that is obviously rare. … He wasn’t the starter at Michigan. He wasn’t the starter at Serra. He’s always had to climb uphill. I think it’s something that was in his DNA. And then he got drafted 199, then he’s behind Bledsoe. You would think he’s one of those guys who has everything. But he’s one of those guys who’s going to squeeze the orange and get the most out of it he can, until he can’t do it anymore.”
Since that draft, Brady has literally accomplished everything.
Yet, he won’t forgive and won’t forget.
Adds Kirby: “Can you believe that? After all these years, he’s still upset about that. It always seems like Tom has something to prove. He wins, he does well — and, then, the next year everybody is waiting for the downfall of Tom Brady. So, I think that kind of fuels him in a lot of ways. That drives the fire. That’s what has driven him the whole way. When he started seventh-string at Michigan. And then third string over there with the Patriots.
“He makes it to the top of the mountain and Tommy still wants more. I’d say what drives him right now is he feeds off that adversity.”
Kirby estimates that he caught 100 balls from Brady back in their Serra days and he still keeps in touch with the QB, too. After the Buccaneers knocked off the Packers in the NFC Championship, he sent Brady a congratulations email at midnight on the west coast and Brady, that next morning at 10 a.m. on the east coast, responded. It should be noted, too, that Brady’s email server isn’t Gmail or Yahoo, either. He uses something that doesn’t even exist anymore. (Reminder: He’s old.)
Kirby knows for a fact that Brady wants to play until he’s 45.
He expects at least two more seasons out of him.
Kirby also knows a major reason for Brady’s success is that he has never forgotten his roots, too. If roles were reversed and he was getting emails overnight from an old high school teammate, he knows he’d be thinking, “I’m Tom Brady. I’ll answer back when I want.”
And what drives Brady is that chance to prove to the entire NFL one more time that they screwed up. Still.
That chance to engineer one more game-winning drive. Still.
Which is our answer: Brady needs that adrenaline rush. It’s the drug he can’t quit.
Kirby would know because he was in the huddle for Tom Brady’s first-ever, game-winning drive. And he reveals that there’s footage of this, too. It was 1992. Brady and Kirby were the QB and WR on Serra High’s JV football team as sophomores — and Kirby’s mother videotaped the moment which you can see in the clip embedded below.
First, the background.
The year before, Kirby recalls, their team went. 0-8. So Brady, Kirby and one other receiver worked on routes all summer long into that sophomore year. At Serra, all boys know one thing: You’ve got to beat SI. Their longtime rival was Ignatius Loyola of San Francisco (“SI”) and, Kirby says, “We’ve hated them since the dawn of time.” SI was built on a cherry orchard back in the 50s so all the boys at Serra loved calling them “The Cherries.” Their students wore the oldest-of-old-school sweaters, too, so he remembers Serra students mocking them in the stands at basketball games with a chant of, “Sweeehhht-errrrs! Sweeehhht-errrrs!”
Says Kirby: “We’d do everything we could to clown these guys.”
This JV game was homecoming for Serra. Easily the biggest on the schedule.
And it all came down to this: Fans going wild, down two points, 1:07 remaining.
The video footage doesn’t capture the entire drive but Kirby remembers starting deep in his own end and needing to go about 80 yards.
The mannerisms. The throwing motion. The calm. This 15-year-old Brady was eerily similar to a 24-year-old Brady vs. the Rams, a 39-year-old Brady vs. the Falcons and 43-year-old Brady this season that day, Kirby recalls. He calmly picked away at that SI defense with a 15-yard out to Kirby, a screen pass (not on film), another 12-yard out to Kirby and, then, the stage was set for what appears to be a 32-yard field goal attempt. Thinking back, it’s insane to Kirby that they even attempted a field goal because this kicker missed all the time in practice. He can’t remember him making one.
Kirby was the holder.
Kirby got the ball down, turned the laces out and heard a loud “Ooomph!” from the kicker he had never before.
From his vantage point, Kirby watched the ball drift hard right — it seemed dead-set on nailing the upright. And at the last second, it curved left and Serra won by one point.
Brady ran onto the field and lifted his helmet high. Players all mobbed and tackled each other.
Start the video right here at the 4:05 mark to catch this all:
Kirby still remembers what Brady was like that drive, too.
“I can remember that drive, him looking in the huddle and saying, ‘C’mon fellas, we’re going to drive down and win this game,’” Kirby says. “We’re in the huddle — and you can still see him do this from time to time — and no one knows this but it kind of gives away who he’s passing to, but when we’d break the huddle, if you see him talking to someone as we leave the huddle, the last receiver, that’s usually who he’s going to throw to.
“So we’d break the huddle and he’d say, ‘Kirb! Get open! I’m throwing the ball to you right now.’”
He still gets flashbacks whenever he hears Brady shout “Green 91! Green 91” during games, too. Brady was shouting that before the snap back at Serra.
Says Kirby: “It’s cool when I hear his cadence — and I see him look down the line of scrimmage — to think that all the faces he’s looked down to see: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Deion Branch. I feel so honored that when he first started looking down that line, when he was first giving those calls, he was looking down at me.
“I still remember him as Tommy leading us on that drive. His first game-winning drive to beat SI. That’s how I remember him.”
Kirby is asked incessantly if he could ever tell that Brady would be the greatest ever. The answer is always no. Back then, most locals thought Brady was bound to play pro baseball. In 1995, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the MLB Draft. (The Expos actually paid him the kind of money typically spent on second- and third-rounders, too.)
Nobody expected a long NFL career. Kirby played college ball at Hawaii himself and figured Brady would be a D-I quarterback that’d last a couple years in the NFL. If that. And here he is in his 10th Super Bowl. Unlike past greats, Brady has dropped zero hints of wanting to retire, too. He genuinely wants to keep going and going and, yes, the core reason is something as simple as that game-winning drive on Serra’s JV team.
The thrill of the moment.
The thrill allows him to keep proving everybody wrong… because there’s at least one person left.
Hell yeah, Bill Belichick is to thank for a little extra juice at 43 years old, too. In Brady’s mind, no question, the Patriots head coach is one more doubter. In a way, that divorce was so similar to 199 and a chance to show the world who was really behind all of those rings in New England.
Says Walsh: “How could New England not figure out how to keep the best player of all-time on their team? You don’t think there’s any motivation there? A guy like Brady will take that as the greatest slight of all-time and take the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl.”
Walsh points to Brady as the “ultimate multiplier,” the force that’d make everyone around him better. Not just for those three hours on a Sunday but for the entire week — “because of what he demands,” he says. Belichick is a GOAT in his own right, he conceded. Unquestionably, the best coach. But to him the Brady-Belichick thing was never really a debate.
“The last time I checked,” Walsh says, “Bill Belichick has zero touchdowns and zero completed passes in the last 20 years.”
And while the rest of us have forgotten about that 2000 NFL Draft, and quarterbacks named Giovanni Carmazzi and Spergon Wynn, Brady has not.
It’s February. Again. He made it to the mountaintop. Again. Win or lose, tomorrow morning, Tom Brady will wake up and probably have zero thoughts about riding off into the sunset.
He’ll start planning for Season No. 22.
He’ll just keep going.