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Brady hosts Best Buddies football game

ALLSTON, Mass. -- On a brisk Friday evening in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Harvard Stadium, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was joined by several teammates and members of the Best Buddies program for the annual Tom Brady Football Challenge.

The two-hand touch game was the first event in a weekend full of festivities to benefit the Best Buddies program, an organization Brady has worked closely with for more than a decade.

Brady took the lead on the field as the quarterback for both teams, and receivers included Patriots teammates Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Dan Koppen, Brian Hoyer, Jerod Mayo, Zoltan Mesko, and Nick McDonald, as well as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak and tight end Christian Fauria also participated.

First-half highlights involved some nifty running after the catch from center Dan Koppen, who tiptoed the sideline for a touchdown, and a near pick-six from Brady’s back-up Hoyer, who was eventually tracked down by Edelman.

At halftime of the event, Brady’s close Buddy, Katie (whom he has known through the program for a decade), delivered a touching speech addressing the impact the organization has had on the lives of many.

She also shared some thoughts on the star quarterback, which had a rare effect on Brady.

“Not many people can make me blush, but she does. She’s the other woman in my life besides my mom and my wife,” he told reporters.

The 34-year old quarterback was initially drawn to Best Buddies early in his NFL career, and cited the commitment that both the parents and Buddies make as factors that make the organization so special to him.

Actively participating in the community is a staple of the Patriots organization, and Brady says it starts at the top.

“It’s really stressed by our ownership, and I think the players really enjoy it, to take part in special nights like this,” he continued. “Zoltan’s have ‘ZoliOke’ in a few weeks, taking over for Larry (Izzo), and Jerod (Mayo) has his Mayo Bowl, which is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of guys – Julian’s really done a lot for this community – it’s important.

“We have an opportunity to make a difference and a lot of guys take that opportunity to do some great things,” he said.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was also in attendance, but did not play before departing for another charity event at halftime. He declined a request to be interviewed.