A head of the matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, the throngs of national media present for the game could not help but speculate on whether this was it. The question lingering in the air was whether Brady’s career was finally coming to an end after more than two decades of excellence.
For Brady, however, it was not time to be reflective. The formula had not changed. The seven Super Bowl rings, the all-time records, the history that made his career the most storied 22 years of football in the chronicle of the sport. None of it mattered.
“All of it’s about three hours Monday Night,” Brady explained. “Everything’s going to come down to what we do those three hours, so, nothing in the past, nothing about the color jerseys we’re wearing. It’s about who’s playing, who’s executing.”
It was fitting. After all, it was Brady’s unparalleled focus and intensity over the years that had gotten him to the pinnacle of the sport. All the noise did not matter—he had a job to do.
Brady walked into the Buccaneer’s Raymond James Stadium dressed head-to-toe in jet black, a steadfast confidence permeated through his dark sunglasses as he made his way to the locker room. For the uninitiated, this would seem like an entrance fit for a rock star. And in a way it was—no player had ever transcended football and culture like Tom Brady. For the veteran quarterback however, it was time to go execute as he always had.
Humble Beginnings and the Road to Greatness
There are only a few athletes who are universally accepted as the greatest in their sport: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth—and Tom Brady.
While most of them entered their respective sports as highly touted prospects, Brady’s journey began as an unassuming sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL Draft.
During ESPN’s segment covering the 199th pick, resident draft expert Mel Kiper remarked, “[Brady] throws a very catchable ball.” Watching the segment today, there is little evidence Kiper realized he was talking about the player who threw perhaps the most catchable ball in the history of the sport. Brady holds the record for the most passing yards, completions, and touchdowns in NFL history.
Kiper would go on to talk about Brady’s perceived weaknesses: “The question is going to be mobility. He only runs a 5.25 forty [yard dash] and of course when you have those edge pass rushers, you have to avoid the initial defensive end, the initial pass rusher. Can he do that at the pro level?”
Brady’s seemingly pedestrian 2000 NFL Combine performance (his 40-yard dash was on par with some offensive lineman) and the now infamous photo of his less-than-strapping, unathletic physique have become part of the lore for what many consider the best draft pick of all time. Every year come draft time, that photo of Brady gets circulated through social media as teams hope to strike gold again as the New England Patriots did in the year 2000.
Brady would acknowledge as much when he posted the picture to his personal Instagram years later, with the caption:
“19 years ago today the @patriots took a chance on the guy in this photo: Me (199) 😂. Thank you to EVERYONE who’s helped me to prove them right! PS: Did they stop taking these photos after mine?? 🤣🤣”
What followed, of course, is legend. Brady would go on to join the Patriots as their fourth-string quarterback and was, by no means, a lock to even make the team. By the following season however, he was thrust into a starting role after veteran starter Drew Bledsoe sustained an injury in week two. That opportunity was all Brady needed. He would lead the Patriots to a 20-17 victory in Super Bowl XXXVI that year and become the youngest Super Bowl MVP.
Brady would win five more Super Bowls with the New England Patriots on his way to becoming the best quarterback, and arguably player, in the history of the sport. No NFL player has ever come close to being as good for as long. If you split Brady’s career with the New England Patriots in two, you would have two Hall of Fame careers.
The GOAT was still not finished.
One Last Ride
What might be the most fascinating part of Brady’s story is the final chapter. After 20 years with the New England Patriots, he had built himself into the greatest champion to ever grace the gridiron. Brady demonstrated unparalleled leadership abilities and ferocious competitiveness time and time again. His fairy-tale career would have been the strongest in the sport’s history, should he have retired then.
“Excited, humble, and hungry ...if there is one thing I have learned about football, it’s that nobody cares what you did last year or the year before that, ...you earn the trust and respect of those around through your commitment every single day. I’m starting a new football journey and thankful for the Buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do…,” Brady announced on Instagram.
Brady’s switch from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was more than just a change of teams; it was a testament to his unyielding determination, his hunger for success, and his unwavering belief in his own abilities.
Brady's 2020 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went beyond just another quest for the championship; it was a journey to prove his own self-reliance. He set out to establish that he could excel outside the system that had defined his career and shake his association with Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick. His performances showcased his mastery of the game, his ability to read defenses, and his signature clutch playmaking.
Brady would end the year in the same place he had been nine times before, leading his team out of the tunnel before the Super Bowl, this time against the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Unlike his first trip, when he led the Patriots to an underdog victory in the waning moments of the game, Brady put on a masterclass and the game never felt close, the culmination of all the experience and success that at once seemed so improbable.
Brady was responsible for three touchdowns—two to his former teammate in New England, Rob Gronkowski—and no interceptions, on his way to a record-extending fifth Super Bowl MVP.
In his speech during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl ring ceremony, addressing his teammates, family, and friends, Brady finally took a moment to look back:
“A lot of you guys were young when I got drafted. I was a sixth-round pick; I was the 199th pick. I never forgot that. I still haven’t forgot that to this day. I have a lot of perspective of where I was at one point in my life and that not a lot of teams thought that I could do anything for them. Not a lot of teams ever believed in what I thought I could accomplish.”
Then as he had throughout his career, he deflected praise to his teammates. “[Everyone always asks] ‘Why the Bucs? Why did you choose the Bucs?’ It was a no brainer,” Brady said, before thanking his teammates individually by name. “I came here to be with you guys. I chose here because of you guys.”
Brady would stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another two years, and although they did not achieve the same success in the postseason, his passing ability would continue to reach new heights, even in the twilight of his career. In 2021, Brady led the league in passing and threw for a career high 5,316 yards. At the tender age of 44 years old, Brady was still setting records.
This jersey was worn on 16 January 2023, when Brady entered Raymond James Stadium for his Monday Night Football NFC Wildcard Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. It was the final game of his career.
After the season was complete, Brady wrote on Instagram, “I’ll get to the point right away... I’m retiring. For good.”
Just as he entered the league, Brady went out in record-setting fashion: His 351 passing yards were the most ever by a player in a final playoff game.
The Nike mesh size 44 white home jersey has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers insignia and is adorned with Brady’s iconic number 12, and a captain's patch.
The jersey has been authenticated by The MeiGray Group, and a photo-match certificate accompanies the present lot. The jersey was worn in the 3rd and 4th Quarters, and was the final jersey Tom Brady wore in his NFL career.