Thanks for the Memories: Tom Brady's Legendary Career Ends

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Thanks for the Memories: Tom Brady’s Legendary Career Comes to an End


As I scrolled Twitter on Wednesday morning, I saw a tweet from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The tweet reminded everyone that the newly retired Tom Brady is eligible for the 2028 Hall of Fame class.

Twenty-twenty-eight. Wow.

When Brady is eligible to enter the Hall of Fame, I’ll be 38. I’ll have one kid who graduated from high school and another in high school by the time that comes. The irony is that I was 11 when I watched Tom Brady lead the Patriots to Super Bowl 36. It’s weird how we retain specific, vivid memories from our childhood. I still remember February 3, 2002, like it was yesterday.

I was at my Dad’s house for the weekend, and when I got home on Sunday afternoon, my Mom, for no reason other than it being Super Bowl Sunday and she had to work that evening, had bought me a new pair of shoes — a fresh pair of white K-Swiss, that’s how long ago this was — and a Super Bowl XXXVI shirt.

Brady led the Patriots to victory that night in what no one anticipated to be the first of seven Super Bowls by Tom Brady.

Pick No. 199 in the 2000 NFL Draft went from a late-round selection and backup quarterback to the greatest player to ever do it at the position over the next two decades. Today, nearly 21 years to the day that Tom Brady and the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl 36, Brady announced his retirement on his social media accounts, this time for good.

It’s kind of wild to think about. For 21 years, Tom Brady was the star of the show that Americans most frequently tune into together.

I’ve seen some reactions here and here with a good riddance sentiment. Some are happy that Brady is “finally” calling it quits, this time, for real. I have a hard time understanding that.

It goes without saying that you weren’t a Patriots fan if you share that sentiment. Well, neither am I. I’m a lifelong Bears fan. A fan of a franchise that has never in my lifetime been able to find success at football’s most prominent position.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always held, at its peak, a love of Brady. At its worst, an appreciation for Brady. When I was 11 and Brady was the underdog story of the NFL, and the Patriots were taking on the Mike Martz Rams, I was compelled to root for Brady. A soft spot, maybe?

I’ve always been a fan of the underdog in sports. So gravitating toward Brady at a young age was easy. However, that early affection faded as Brady and the Patriots’ underdog status dissipated. By the time I was in high school, Brady had gone from the underdog story of the NFL to the main event.

The original appeal had faded, but the appreciation was still there.

As Brady battled Peyton Manning year after year for quarterback supremacy, Brady’s fiery competitive edge gave him the advantage. But, for better or worse, that edge was Brady’s most prominent trait. He wasn’t the line-of-scrimmage wizard that Peyton Manning was. He wasn’t the athlete that some of the other dominant quarterbacks of his time were.

But there was never a more fierce competitor than Brady. I mean, how else do you win seven Super Bowls? Tom Brady retired on Wednesday with more Super Bowls than any other NFL franchise. Not player. Franchise.

Some may argue that Brady’s career outlasted his expiration date. Maybe from a story-telling standpoint. Riding off into the sunset after No. 7 with the Buccaneers two years ago would have been a made-for-television script. However, Brady didn’t do things on others’ terms. He wanted to play for two more years, and so he did.

A self-recorded video on the beach telling millions of fans that you’re retiring might not be the ending some people see fit for the greatest of all time. But it was perfect for Brady. It was on his terms, regardless of what others thought. Regardless of what the evaluators at Michigan thought when he was once seventh on the Wolverines’ depth chart. Irrespective of what NFL evaluators thought when he was a sixth-round draft pick.

From counted out to counted on. From underdog hero to dominant villain for so many. Regardless of his role, Brady was the main event in America’s most popular game.

Goodbye, Tom, and thanks for all the memories, for better or worse. This time, for good.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.