This weekend, untold multitudes across the country and around the world will watch the Super Bowl. Whether or not that is a good thing (and it’s not) is the subject of other articles elsewhere. But the man at the center of this year’s Super Bowl is someone we should look at and learn from.
Tom Brady, the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots since the 2001 season, is in many ways a normal guy with a normal life. For example, his wife doesn’t like him getting roughed up by opposing players, and she’s taken ill to criticisms of her man when his team loses. Brady’s wife is a liberal and overrules him sometimes. He has a failed relationship in his past, and is the father to a nine-, seven-, and four-year old, with potentially more to come.
Brady is no believer. At best he is a nominally “spiritual” secularist. He was born and baptized Roman Catholic. During his time in the spotlight he has, like millions of other Americans, gravitated towards the quasi-Eastern, quasi-civic religion that prevails in the West. In 2004 Brady worked with Deepak Chopra’s son to produce a mini-series examining the religion-like qualities of sports, called “The Religion of Sports.” Spoiler alert: I don’t think it had prominent NFL evangelicals like Kurt Warner and Tim Tebow as its focus.
So already we can see that Tom Brady is not a total role model par excellence. He has serious failures in his personal life. Those flaws don’t make him much different from most people. It is rare to find someone with a solidly biblical faith life and a successful first and only marriage. So let’s not heap unwarranted criticism on Brady.
Unlike many other celebrities with his kind of star-studded life, he has not used his platform to advance degenerate causes. He has refused to comment even on league-wide issues affecting the NFL. In fact, he has been a quiet but stalwart supporter of old-school American patriotism a la Donald Trump. The media went ga-ga when he had a red “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker earlier this season. He’s even taken heat for that but didn’t disavow Trump’s friendship. Honestly I’m just glad he’s not pushing the pro-homosexual “It gets better” line like his colleague in New Orleans, Drew Brees.
So what should we learn from Tom Brady? It’s how to succeed. With respect to achieving his goals, he has a lot to teach us and should be looked at as a role model for young white kids.
Brady genuinely does have a laser-like focus on succeeding at his job. He is not the sole Patriot to practice this philosophy. New England’s head coach Bill Belichick is notorious for also doing this. Players who spend time as part of the Patriots organization always comment on this aspect of Brady and Belichick’s approach to life. For people who come from a different culture than that of the Patriots organization, the difference is jarring and humbling.
“His personality is contagious,” Bennett said about working with Brady. “The way that he competes, he just makes you rise to another level because it doesn’t matter if it’s walkthrough — walkthrough ends up going faster because he’s going faster. You have to raise your play to the level that Tom’s at.
“I think that’s one of the most inspiring things there, [is] the way that he’s able to raise your play without even saying anything. It’s just the way that he does it, I gotta match that. If he’s doing that, if this dude’s doing this, then I have to make sure I’m up there as well.”
Brady has a growth mentality, not a fixed mindset. He’s always looking to improve on aspects of his game despite already being considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. According to Tebow, who worked alongside Brady briefly during a 2013 stint with the Patriots, Brady will spend extra time after practices working on things that grade-school quarterbacks work on, like where he places his feet during his three-step drop.
He earns less than other quarterbacks so that his franchise can pay for a good supporting cast that will work alongside him to win Super Bowl championships. In other words, Brady keeps his eyes on the prize. Not fame, not fortune, but winning at the top level of his industry, for as long as possible, as beautifully and perfectly as possible.
Check out his career stats here. He’s won four Super Bowls already, been named Super Bowl MVP three times, and won NFL MVP twice. In 2007, he led an NFL team to a perfect regular season for the first time since 1972, and the only time since the league implemented a 16-game season. And yes, he has had to rebound after two Super Bowl defeats, an injury that cost him nearly the entire 2008 season, and a very public dispute with the NFL’s commissioner that cost him a slice of his reputation and a four-game suspension.
He eats, sleeps, and does everything to increase his odds of winning more championships. His favorite recipe? Avocado ice cream.
Why would someone who is worth well over $100 million and is already in the running for “Greatest of All Time” status push himself so hard? Part of it is that it’s in his DNA. Since his childhood, he was always interested in challenges. He was the only boy amongst three highly competitive and accomplished sisters. A native Californian, he grew up watching his hero-turned-peer, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. He grew up in a culture that emphasized achievement.
Brady did well in high school but had to fight hard to earn a starting position at the University of Michigan. He was a third-stringer behind quarterbacks you’ve probably never heard of, and shared the limelight even when he started at quarterback his senior season.
When he came to the NFL after a successful career at Michigan, the NFL’s teams picked many other players to join their rosters before anyone picked Brady. How many players got picked before Tom Brady? 198.
That’s right — the player now being considered GOAT was the 199th pick in the NFL draft. I wonder how those teams feel about those 198 players they chose instead of Tom Brady. Can you name one, I wonder? Will any of them be playing in the seventh Super Bowl of their careers? Probably not.
But Brady himself is motivated by the fact that he was passed over.
“I guess in a sense I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” he says. “If you were the 199th pick, you were the 199th pick for a reason: because someone didn’t think you were good enough. I’ve seen plenty of guys who are good players get cut. I wish maybe I had a little more peace of mind.”
We should pray that as he ages, he does find that peace of mind in Christ. But God uses even bad circumstances to motivate us to achieve greatness. Brady’s drive is something that we can all learn from.
As we lead our families or begin them in the future, let’s create family cultures that emphasize achievement and provide loving support. Let’s teach ourselves and our kids alike to keep our minds open to self-improvement and to remain teachable, as the Scripture commands us repeatedly in Proverbs. Let’s work as unto the Lord so that, no matter whether our field is homemaking or electrical engineering, we can one day go from 199th to “Greatest of All Time.”