BOSTON (Reuters) - Possessing ‘All-American’ good looks, married to a supermodel and one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady transcends sport.
But on Sunday, it will be his play on the field that draws worldwide attention. A fourth Super Bowl win would seal the California-born athlete’s place among the game’s elite.
He already holds many National Football League (NFL) regular-season and post-season marks. But for the 34-year-old Brady in the final years of his career, winning, not statistics, is the key.
After a few years of being overshadowed by rivals like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, New England’s three-time Super Bowl winner will get a chance against the New York Giants in Indianapolis to put a definitive stamp on his career.
He hardly seemed destined for elite status when he was the 199th selection in the 2000 NFL draft following his stint at quarterback at the University of Michigan.
His lowly selection led the NFL Network to declare him the best draft “steal” of all time.
Brady started as a fourth-string quarterback but playing time came in 2001 after an injury to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Brady never looked back, leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win that season.
The quarterback’s success lies in his ability, working closely with coach Bill Belichick, to make winners out of a team of relative unknowns. He projects calm and focus under pressure, and has had the knack of bringing his best game when it counts.
Growing up in San Mateo, near San Francisco, Brady idolized 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, who won each of the four Super Bowls he played in.
Brady is now tied with Montana for the highest number of playoff wins for an NFL quarterback, and would move to the head of the list with a win on Sunday.
Brady personifies the quarterback-as-celebrity, sometimes crossing the line from playing field to the red carpet.
Chosen as one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in 2002, Brady hosted the popular television comedy show “Saturday Night Live” in 2005.
He has graced the cover of “GQ” four times, including December 2009’s annual “Men of the Year” issue when he selected over Barack Obama and Kobe Bryant.
The men’s fashion and style magazine also named him one of the “coolest athletes of all time” in 2011.
After ending a long-term relationship to actress/model Bridget Moynahan, Brady married Brazilian Gisele Bundchen, currently the world’s highest-paid model, in 2009. The couple have one son, Benjamin.
Befitting mega-celebrity status, their home soon will be a mansion in Los Angeles’ posh Brentwood neighborhood.
The Boston Globe reports the couple paid $11 million for the 3.75-acre property, and millions more to build the house, which is expected to have a six-car garage, elaborate gardens and a lagoon-shaped swimming pool.
Coming off a season-ending knee injury in 2008, Brady excelled in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. But each quest ended with a bitter playoff loss, and it seemed the best years of the Brady-Belichick collaboration may have been over.
But the 2011 post-season has brought regeneration.
“It’s all about winning. You lose a few playoff games, and it’s a very bitter way to end the season, and it sits on your mind for quite a long time,” Brady said after his team thrashed Denver in the AFC divisional playoff game.
He is in the middle of a four-year contract extension and is expected to be with the Patriots through the 2014 season.
“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” Belichick said after the Patriots’ narrow win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. “He does so much for us in so many ways on so many different levels.”
Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Gene Cherry