(Reuters) - Long before Tebow-Mania swept across North America, football fans had a fascination for another National Football League (NFL) quarterback with a no less compelling story.
With three Super Bowl titles and a supermodel wife, Tom Brady has been a player fans gravitated to for much of the past decade as the New England Patriots triggerman, with details of his glamorous life and glittering career filling newspapers, magazines and hours of NFL Sunday pre-game shows.
But when the Patriots host the Denver Broncos in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff, the seven-time Pro Bowler will concede the spotlight to Tim Tebow, the gridiron miracle worker who has caught the imagination of the American public.
Tebow hysteria hit new levels on Sunday when the unorthodox quarterback, whose shortcomings as an NFL passer have been well documented, tossed an 80-yard touchdown strike on the first play of an overtime win over the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
You can count Brady among those impressed by the Denver quarterback’s pluck but he is not about to get swept up in the Tebow-Mania.
“He (Tebow) is a good player, and I think it’s a lot for the defense to prepare for,” Brady told Boston radio station WEEI on Monday. “It’s a very different style but they’re very effective.
“I know a lot of people make it out to be one player on a lot of teams, but the reason why the Denver Broncos are in this position is their team as a whole.”
Turning many doubters into believers, Tebow’s journey to becoming a starting NFL quarterback is a lesson in self-belief and motivation, but for those who may have forgotten, Brady’s journey to NFL fame and glory is no less inspiring.
Taken in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft as an after-thought by the Patriots, Brady’s NFL career is a rags-to-riches Hollywood tale, packed with stunning starlets and achievements and painful setbacks.
Brady began his professional career as New England’s fourth string quarterback holding a clipboard on the sidelines but is likely to end it in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest ever to play the position.
He has amassed a regular season record of 124-35 and is 14-4 in the playoffs.
He has led his team to four Super Bowl appearances, helped guide the Patriots to a perfect 16-0 regular season in 2007 and this year became just the fourth quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards or more in a single campaign.
While Tebow arrived in the NFL as a celebrity, Heisman Trophy winner as the top U.S. collegiate player and national champion, Brady spent his college years at Michigan University in relative obscurity and entered the NFL the same way.
“All those opportunities different guys get at different times, whether you are a first round pick and you finally get your chance to play or you’re a late round pick ... everyone has a different story to tell,” explained Brady. “I was a young man, I was an 18-year-old kid who was a long way from home and battling through some challenging situations just in terms of the competition on a daily basis.
“If I was getting one rep I was going to try and do the best I could with that one rep.
“That helped my competitive spirit. I treat practice very seriously. If you can’t perform in practice, I don’t buy into this, I’ll just flip a switch on game day.
“It’s not the way it works, you have to prove it day in and day out.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue