I'll never forget Week 3 of the 2001 NFL Season. The Patriots were coming off back-to-back losses to the lowly Bengals and Jets. Their star quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, had lost half the blood in his body after suffering a vicious hit and appeared to be sidelined for the season. Up next for the Pats were Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts who had scorched their opponents by racking up 80 points in the previous two games. It appeared that 0-3 was a formality and the season was over.
Then Tom Brady stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. The NFL has never been the same since.
Tom Brady outgunned the lauded Peyton Manning, shocking the world. It was a trend he would continue all the way up to Super Bowl XXXVI, where the 14 point underdog New England Patriots would defeated the seemingly invincible St. Louis Rams to capture their first title.
Ever since that Super Bowl, the name Tom Brady has been synonymous with "winning". As the leader of the Patriots, he's managed to add two more titles to his resume, as well as amass a large number of individual accolades. But none of that changes the fact that NFL analysts around the league still love to downplay Tom Brady and his fellow Patriots. For years they've lauded Peyton Manning as the greatest thing since sliced bread, only to watch him choke in the playoffs year after year. Yet Brady kept churning out win after win, and it's only after his third title that the media is finally catching onto the fact that Peyton may not be all they built him up to be. Of course that means that Tom has only been "upgraded" to Peyton's equal, even though the trophy case argues otherwise. And his team is still waiting to cash in on some of that respect that three titles in four seasons is supposed to earn you.
But despite all of the controversy and success, Tom Brady's still remained true to the values which earned him all his honors. One of the main reasons for the New England Patriots' success is their commitment to the concept of "team". No one is greater than the whole. Nobody thrives without four or five others holding him up. And despite the numerous opportunities to make it "all about himself", Tom Brady has stayed true to the teammates who helped get him where he is today. When Brady was approached by Visa last season to star in a commercial, the original plan was to have four no-name actors fill in as his linemen. Tom quickly shunned the idea and convinced Visa to include his actual teammates in the spot. It's those types of small loyalties which have allowed the Patriots to have a cohesive locker room these past few seasons. And it all starts with their leader, Tom Brady.
For all intents and purposes, Brady defines the New England Patriots. There's very few attributes of the franchise that aren't directly reflected in Tom's character. Hard-work, consistency, humility, and coming up big when it counts the most are all traits that were foundational to the team's three Super Bowl victories. And seeing as those championships and several other pulse-pounding Patriots victories are the most memorable moments in franchise history, it's no surprise that this "diamond in the rough" quarterback has become a Legend in New England.