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This is the highest-paid player in the Super Bowl—and it's not New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots takes the field prior to Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Al Bello | Getty Images

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a five-time Super Bowl winner, has been named AP NFL Most Valuable Player three times and is, statistically, one of the best players in the National Football League.

But he's still not the highest-paid player in this year's big game.

CNBC Make It used numbers from sports data website Spotrac to find the 2018-2019 average salary for each player on the Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. The highest-paid player: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whose average annual salary is a whopping $22.5 million.

By comparison, the second highest-paid player is Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who'll be paid $16.2 million this season. Brady ranks No. 3, with $15 million.

The total amount a player takes in depends on several factors like signing bonuses, performance incentives and endorsement deals, of which, Brady has many. He earned $14 million in endorsements in 2018 and may earn another $5 million in bonuses "after the Patriots added incentives to his contract ahead of the season start," Forbes reports.

For now, at least, Donald, the 2017 and 2018 AP Defensive Player of the Year, has the edge. At the beginning of this season, he signed a $135 million deal to be paid out over the next six years, and that, in combination with his endorsement deals and signing bonus, put him at No. 5 on Forbes' list of highest-paid players. (Brady comes in at No. 8.)

Donald wasn't always an athletic powerhouse, though. In fact, he was "lazy as a kid," he said in an interview with ESPN. That was before his father, Archie, introduced him to weightlifting in a homemade basement gym at age 12. Workout time was 4:45 a.m. every weekday.

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"He was a little lazy about it at first until he started seeing a change in his body," Donald's dad confirmed to ESPN. "That's how it usually works when you're lifting weights. You don't like it because it hurts. But when you start seeing a change, then, and only then, do you start doing it.

"And at that point, once he started seeing a change in his body, I mean, man, he was waking me up every morning trying to get a workout."

The work paid off: Donald, who had the most sacks in the league this season, according to NFL.com, is the eighth player to win multiple AP Defensive Player of the Year awards and the third-ever to win one back-to-back. He also won the 2018 Deacon Jones Award, created in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end David D. "Deacon" Jones.

Now, he wants to give back to his parents. "A lot of my success, and a lot of who I am now, is because of my dad, and the way he raised me and taught me how to have a work ethic," Donald told ESPN. "I always tell my dad he was training me to be a pro before he even knew it."

That's why "I work hard to make you and mommy millionaires," he told his dad in a text message. "The best is yet to come."

Whether they earn millions, like Donald, or only a fraction of that, like the lowest-paid player in this year's game, each player in this year's Super Bowl — including those who are injured or inactive — will get a payout: Winners will take home $118,000 each, according to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. Losers will take home $59,000.

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Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots takes the field prior to Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Al Bello | Getty Images
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