February 4, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Illustration by Sydney Morris

Tom Brady, considered by many to be the greatest NFL player of all time, finally hung up his cleats on Tuesday. He retired from football just over a week after the conclusion of his 22nd NFL season.

Brady announced his retirement in an Instagram post on Tuesday morning, ending days of speculation after unconfirmed reports about Brady’s retirement surfaced Saturday afternoon.

Famously picked 199th overall in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft, Brady’s career has been nothing short of legendary. Early on, Brady had to earn the opportunities that came his way, competing for a starting role at the collegiate level before even making it into the NFL.

At The University of Michigan, Brady was named the starting quarterback during his junior year, but even with his consistently good play, Head Coach Lloyd Carr didn’t name him the starter for his senior season. Instead, he opted to use both Brady and sophomore sensation Drew Henson in the first half of games and then allow whoever was playing better to play for the second half.

This two-quarterback system eventually failed, as Henson consistently put Michigan in bad positions with his poor play while Brady consistently led fourth quarter comebacks to try and salvage a victory. After a late-game loss to Illinois, Carr named Brady the starter for the rest of the season.

Brady delivered in the role, leading Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory after initiating not one, but two 14-point comebacks during the game to beat the University of Alabama in overtime 35-34.

Even with his solid play at Michigan, NFL teams were wary about selecting Brady in the 2000 NFL draft due to the two-quarterback situation. This wariness culminated in Brady falling to the 199th overall pick where he was selected by the New England Patriots. They already had three other quarterbacks on their roster.

Brady worked his way up the depth chart during his rookie year and was named the backup option to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe ahead of the 2001 season. In the second game of that season against the rival New York Jets, Bledsoe was running out of bounds towards the Patriots’ sideline when he was hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.

The hit punctured Bledsoe’s lung and caused his abdomen to start filling with blood, leaving him in too much pain to keep playing. Upon Bledsoe’s exit, second year quarterback Tom Brady was thrust into the starting quarterback role, something he had been fighting for his entire collegiate and pro career up to that point.

The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl in 2001 with Brady at the helm. That was the first of his whopping 10 Super Bowl appearances over the course of his career. Of the 10, he won seven.

Brady proved to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL every year he started, leading the league in passing touchdowns five times, interception percentage four times, and passing yards four times – including setting a career high 5,316 passing yards in his final season at age 44.

He leaves the game with many career statistical records as well, including the all-time passing yards record, the all-time passing completions record, and the all-time passing touchdowns record. Brady is also second all-time in 4th quarter comebacks – having seamlessly translated the ability he was known for at Michigan to his NFL playing career.

The statistical numbers Brady achieved throughout his career led to many awards as well. Brady won league MVP three times and Super Bowl MVP five times, was named to 15 Pro Bowls, and is a two-time offensive player of the year as well as a three-time all-pro. Brady was also named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s all-2000s team and all-2010s team, the latter of which he was a unanimous selection for.

Championships, statistics, and accolades aside, what may separate Brady the most from other quarterbacks is his longevity. Brady had only one significant injury in his history of play – an ACL tear the first week of the 2008 season that kept him out for the remaining 15 games – and as of 2017 had only been listed on the injury report 10 other times in his career.

Moreover, Brady never “fell off a cliff” as some people had anticipated him to do as he got into the later stages of his career. Defying the trend of star quarterbacks (such as fellow all-time great Peyton Manning) becoming less and less valuable to their team as they aged.

It is impossible to completely encapsulate the career and legacy of Tom Brady, as not only was he responsible for the greatest NFL career that we have ever seen, but he also played a large part in numerous timeless playoff moments, including his epic comebacks in Super Bowls XLIX and LI.

When drafted in 2000, before ever even taking a snap on an NFL field, Brady made a bold prediction to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, saying “I am the best decision this organization has ever made.” After a magnificent 22-year career, it is apparent not only that Brady delivered on his promise, but that he forever changed the landscape of professional football and inspired a new generation of athletes to follow in his footsteps.

Tom Brady is one of the greatest players in league history. He helped define an era of professional football from his first Super Bowl in 2001 up until his last in 2021.

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