For the 10th time in the past 20 seasons, the hype train steaming toward Super Bowl Sunday is loaded with Tom Brady stories.
At this point, most Americans are intimately familiar with the “GOAT,” whether they’re aware of his numerous rings, passing records, rags-to-riches NFL arc, social media presence, dietary preferences, occasional scandals or supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen.
Brady himself still seems maniacally driven to continue forging his unparalleled football legacy, the new(ish) Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback still very much practicing the “Patriot Way” in certain respects.
“As long as I’m playing, I want to improve and get better,” he said this week. “And I think next year is gonna be a lot better than this year. I feel like I’ll be in a much better place mentally, and I’m gonna train a lot better this year, physically.
“I know as soon as this game ends, we’re on to next season.”
And while I was seeking the next story, I asked people around the Super Bowl 55 landscape for their impressions of Brady – beyond his more familiar aspects.
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Here are some things they told USA TODAY Sports that you might not know about Tom Brady:
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians
“I think the biggest thing with Tom is that he’s just one of the guys. Until you’re with a guy of his stature, you really don’t know his personality on a daily basis. He is just fantastically one of the guys, and he does such a great job working with younger and older players. It’s like having another coach on the field, and it’s been fantastic.”
CBS analyst and former WR Nate Burleson
“(O)ne thing we don’t oftentimes say, that might sound a bit cliché – he could be the most coachable player of all times. And think about that, as great he is, he’s also one of the best system quarterbacks ever – and that isn’t a slight to him. That’s somebody that, over the course of his career in New England, he took his system, and he learned it like the back of his hand. And everything that was added to him, he just used that – used that in games that were hanging in the balance.
“I once heard that true humility is being able to accept criticisms as graciously as we accept compliments. Now Tom Brady is always being complimented because he deserves it, and he worked his butt off for it. But, whenever he’s criticized, he accepts that as well.”
CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher
“Going against Tom Brady in (two) championship games in the AFC, his preparation is second to none. What he does in terms of his leadership – absolutely there. When you go against Tom Brady, he’s unflappable. And I sit here as a defensive coordinator and try to throw different things at him – his patience, his focus, his ability to stay that way through the course of 60 minutes, he gets mad and he’s emotional, but he’s a focused guy with a sense of purpose.
“He is working on the little things, the details, and yet his humility speaks for itself in anything else that he’s done. He is the face of your team, he leads by example, and that’s why he is who he is.”
CBS analyst and former QB Boomer Esiason
“For me, it’s the dedication honestly. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I liken it to when Peyton Manning went to Denver and taught that organization how to win. (Brady) picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I think it had a lot to do with their roster, and it certainly had a lot to do with their coach, Bruce Arians. And I remember thinking back (to) Week 1, Week 2, they got off to not the greatest of starts, and we’re all wondering why that was the case. And now we find out that Tom Brady’s dad was in the hospital with COVID-19 – I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like for him.
“It took a while for them to try to figure out who he was, and what they really wanted to do with him and how he would feel more comfortable. … But what’s remarkable to me, it’s the dedication to the craft to make sure that he is still at the top of his game and how smart he is and how he impacts everybody else that he plays with.”
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
“Adding a QB of his caliber, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s just little meetings here and there. Extra meetings to make sure everything’s fine-tuned and that everybody knows what they’re doing in the games – making sure everybody’s questions are (answered).”
Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski
“His coaching dynamic that he brings to the table – you don’t see that in the box score, you don’t see that out on the (game day) field. When he’s at practice, he’s coaching people up, he’s coaching players up … and not just for himself. It’s always for the best interest of the team – he’s helping guys out to get to the next level, just so the team can just be overall better, can be stronger. He just brings so much of that to the table, and you just never see it unless you’re part of the organization.”
Buccaneers C Ryan Jensen
“There’s a reason why he has had so much success in this league over the last 20 years. Just the way he works and attacks every day, it’s amazing that he can keep that pace. So it’s awesome for a team to see how he works and how he operates on a daily basis. And it’s very addictive for other guys to begin following a guy who plays that way and practices that way.”
Chiefs DB Tyrann Mathieu
“He’s just so poised. I think this whole season he’s been poised, especially with all the noise that they had early on in the season, him not throwing the ball downfield or hitting those shots. Even when he struggles in certain halves of certain games, he always finds a way to put his team back in it. I’d probably say that’s one of the things I admire about him the most – but I also hate it, because I’m a defender and, you know, when you’re up by 20 points or three scores and you give him the ball back, he always has a chance to kinda put his team back in it. But that’s one of the things I appreciate about him.
“I think most people, when you look at him, say to themselves that he’s not this great athlete at quarterback. But I think one of the things that separates him is really his competitive edge. … He has fire in his eye, he always feels like he has a chance to win the game for his team.
“We gotta be ready to play four quarters with Tom Brady – even beyond. That competitive edge, that drive that he has to still be great, 20 years and multiple Super Bowls later, I’d probably say he’s different than any other athlete I’ve seen. Most guys win, and they get comfortable. Most guys win, and they showboat. Tom Brady seems to win and then go back to work.”
NFL Network analyst and former Patriots LB Willie McGinest
(*On Thursday’s “NFL Total Access”) “He is a firecracker now, let me tell you – he has a lot of energy, and he gets fired up. But the one thing that you have to have at that position is that ‘it factor’ – that thing where your teammates look you in the eye (and) they know you’re gonna make that play, and they know that you’re riding with them and you can put this team on your back.
“But one of the things that makes him an ultimate teammate is he never wants the glory, he never wants to talk about his accomplishments or what he’s done. … It’s always been about everybody else on the team before him or his personal accolades.”
Buccaneers WR Scotty Miller
“We all look at him as this figure, growing up (and) watching him every Sunday – the greatest football player of all time. But when you really get to talk to him, get to meet him – he’s just a normal guy. But he’s an elite football player, an elite leader. His leadership skills are just unbelievable, unmatched.”
CBS analyst and former QB Phil Simms
“I did, I don’t know how many games – 80 games (as a CBS broadcast analyst) with the New England Patriots over the years, did so many interviews with (Brady) – and of course he’s driven. Many things drive this guy – one, it’s just natural, that’s who he is, (strives) to excel at whatever he tries to do. The fact that he had to share time at Michigan just gave him something in his mind that drove him more. And then to be picked in the sixth round.
“When I was up there his rookie year (2000), when he didn’t play, all I kept hearing about, ‘Tom Brady, Tom Brady.’ How the coaches saw in him that he is a born leader on the football field. … And I know they deep down really were thinking, ‘Hey, this guy’s gonna be our starting quarterback really soon, sooner than a lot of people think.'”
Buccaneers DL Ndamukong Suh
“I think the biggest thing that makes him special is just his ability to kinda have that humble beginnings mantra that he always has. Carries himself in a very humble manner and is relatable to the most well-known guy on the team – which is himself – but then also, at the same time, to a guy that may not have any (reputation).
“Being able to spread your ability across the team, I think that’s something very special that he’s able to do. And then also, he’s still teaching, still learning and still being able to absorb things himself as the game is always evolving – and he’s always changing and wanting to be the best.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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