At 23, Tom Brady was the sixth-round draft pick for the New England Patriots. He was tall, lanky and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.28 seconds, when most starting quarterbacks did it in under five seconds — not exactly what most NFL teams look for.
As a result, Brady ended up sitting the bench a majority of his rookie year as a backup to the franchise's then-quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
When Brady was asked about his bench warming, clipboard carrying year in his first sit-down interview as a Patriot in 2000, he still said it was a dream job.
"I tell myself every day, I said, 'where would you rather be?' And the answer is always the same: 'I'd rather just be right here, just doing exactly what I'm doing," Brady says in a YouTube clip of the interview posted by the New England Patriots.
Sitting out didn't bother Brady one bit because he felt lucky to even be a professional football player.
As a rookie, Brady, like most college grads entering the workforce, had some hard lessons to learn. One was the amount of prep work NFL players have to do off the field.
"I didn't understand how much time was actually spent studying the game and preparing for the game and preparing for every possible situation," Brady says in the 2000 interview.
Also, as the quarterback, who is often considered the leader of the team, Brady had to learn to juggles the different demands of the role,
"My coach [Bill Belichick] made a point to me and said, 'you know, you're trying to see everything and instead you're seeing nothing,' which was which was a great piece of coaching advice," Brady says during the interview. (Belichick became head coach of the Patriots the same year was Brady was signed as a rookie.)
Despite not playing in a single actual game his first year, Brady said he still took all the same practice snaps as Bledsoe to keep himself in the game "mentally."
"I'm really trying to stay out there and take a lot of the mental reps, and I see what Drew does out there," he says.
Because of that mentality, Brady was prepared when his chance to play came, which was sooner than anyone expected.
During the second game of Brady's second season in 2001, Bledsoe was hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and seriously injured. That season, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl win — and the rest is history.
Brady and Belichick have won six Super Bowl titles together. At 42, Brady has stayed in the game longer than most players (the average NFL career for a Pro-Bowl nominated quarterback is 12 years, according to the Houston Chronicle). Brady says he credits his longevity and success to the strict health and wellness regimen.
But football means more to Brady than just winning games.
"I wish every season ended in a win," Brady wrote on Instagram on Jan. 8, after the Patriots' recent loss to the Tennessee Titans, which dashed his hopes for a chance at a seventh Super Bowl win, "but that's not the nature of sports (or life). Nobody plays to lose. But the reward for working hard is just that, the work!!"
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