“Amid a Life of Celebrity and Success, Tom Brady is All Business,” by Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post, Super Bowl Sunday, 2/1/15
[Michael’s Note: See the connections for helping our students cultivate a growth mindset.]
You’ve never seen Tom Brady in a moment of honest panic….
It’s an interesting thing to watch a pretty boy chase greatness with such implacable focus. Brady’s best asset as a quarterback may be that, in a life so full of distraction, he completely knows what his real business is….
Even [teammates] are taken aback at how purposeful he remains at the age of 37, with three children and a world-renowned beauty for a bride. “He’s a three-time Super Bowl champ who has everything…. You would think he would go through the motions,” [teammate] Julian Edelman says. “But no.”…
He has extended his career with an attention to detail that can only be called obsession…. Brady’s worst fear is that he will leave something undone — something unstudied or unnoticed that could make a difference in a close one.
“This game, you hate to play anything less than your best because you rack your brain for all the things you wish you could have done better,” he says….
It has become rote by now to state that Brady was just a sixth-round draft pick, and to say it with a smirk as if it’s a curious little anomaly in his NFL biography. His agent, Don Yee, once called it “the greatest piece of scouting malpractice that’s ever been.”
It’s a good line — but…it suggests that Brady’s talent was there all along. It doesn’t explain the extent to which Brady’s career has been an act of self-will, a thing of his own construction. A few years ago, I asked Brady if he thought he was born with certain unequally distributed gifts.
“I never felt that one day in my life,” he said, “and I think if I did I’d be in trouble.”
The chief motivation of his career, he said, was “insecurity.”
“I always feel there’s…someone right on my footsteps. I never had a lot of great ability. If I don’t really work at it…I’m a very average quarterback.”
Anyone who wants to understand how Brady plays with such confidence should focus, ironically, on that nagging sense of inadequacy. He doesn’t panic not because he has a great arm or the legs of a javelin thrower, but because he has studied so hard….
As a freshman at Michigan, he started out seventh on the depth chart. He almost transferred as a sophomore when he decided he wasn’t getting a fair shot. His coach, Lloyd Carr, told him to “worry about yourself and quit worrying about what other people are doing.”
He sought out a sports psychologist, to whom he whined that everyone else got reps with the first team, while he only got reps with the second string when it was third and eight. “What’s wrong with that?” the psychologist said. “If you can do it when it’s third and eight, everyone knows you can do it on third and four.” It was a piece of advice he never forgot — the rosetta stone to everything that happened after.
“You can look at it one way, and not get a bit better,” Brady remarked, in telling the story. “Or you can put it on yourself to get better.”
He has never stopped getting better.
“He has shown that it isn’t where you start; it’s how you finish,”
[Seattle Seahawks Coach] Pete Carroll says. “And he’s finishing in famous fashion.”
Sally Jenkins has been named the nation’s top sports columnist four times by the Associated Press Sports Editors. She is the author of four New York Times bestsellers.