- Elizabeth Merrill
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The well-meaning gentleman on the phone says there are no new stories left to tell about Tom Brady. The No. 199 thing? It's been done. And done. The Tom-Brady-hates-to-lose-so-much-that-it-hurts yarn? Google that, and it'll get you 4 million hits. The ground has been plowed here; there's nothing else to say. Tom Brady is married to a supermodel, for God's sake. He can't even go to Vegas, much less buy diapers at the store, without being stalked by paparazzi.
So therein lies the problem this Super Bowl week, of writing a story about a quarterback who's been to five of these things, who's been dissected on this stage as he's led his team to the biggest sports spectacle in the world. What can you say about Tom Brady that hasn't been said? What could we possibly learn at this point?
"There's really nothing more to say," says Brady's dad, Tom Brady Sr.
"I mean, if I could help you, I would "
The elder Brady says he'll think about it and to call him back in a day or two. Meanwhile, in the Patriots' locker room, it isn't exactly the den of disclosure. Brady plays for New England and lives and dies by the Patriot Way, which, depending on whom you talk to, means a number of things but ultimately there are no leaks here.
Dan Connolly, the man who snaps the ball to Brady, can sum it up better: "It's doing what's best for the team. It's not doing what's best for you, [it's] putting the team first and doing your job."
In other words, it's about not drawing attention to yourself. A rookie in the locker room is asked for a fresh perspective on Brady, and he gets nervous and declines comment. He doesn't want to get in trouble with the coach, he says. So the Patriot Way clearly works -- Brady is going for his fourth Super Bowl ring Sunday when New England plays the New York Giants -- but it doesn't make for great copy.
Oh, there were some morsels Tuesday at media day. Scraps, if you will. Then Tom Sr. calls at lunchtime. He says he sat down with Tom's mom and yes, they came up with a few things that might be unknown to other people. Tom Brady likes hummus. He started surfing a couple of years ago, and when he really wants to relax, he hits the waves in Costa Rica. He loves barbecue, loves his two little boys, John Edward Thomas and Benjamin, and has really come to loathe the spotlight that comes with this wonderful life.
He would never say that, of course. He'll say the paparazzi and the press come with the territory. It sounds familiar.
But here are 12 things that perhaps you didn't know about Tom Brady, from some of the people who know him best:
HE HAS AN UNUSUAL TERM OF ENDEARMENT
Tom Brady is a man's man. This is not really in question. He is captured on giant billboards, GQ to the 10th power, ruggedly hip and cool with 5 o'clock stubble.
But Brady also has a softer side. A teammate, who wishes -- no, begs -- to not be named, says Brady's vernacular isn't always dripping with masculinity. While most guys address each other with a casual, "Hey, man," Brady often calls teammates something else.
"He always kind of calls guys 'Babe,'" the teammate says. "I was confused [at first]. I was like, 'Did he just call me babe?' But he kind of talks to guys like that, like, 'Hey, babe.' It's the California boy in him, I guess.
"It's kind of funny. Everybody has this image of Tom Brady being this passionate, tough guy on the field. But off the field, he's one of the nicest guys I've ever been around."
SPEAKING OF BEING NICE
Brady apparently is a generous guy. He gave each of his teammates, starters and scrubs, a pair of Ugg slippers (Brady endorses the product). For Christmas, he splurged for watches for his offensive linemen. Connolly says the big boys actually look quite stylish in the Uggs, which are known for their furry comfort.
"We're probably the best-dressed offensive linemen in the NFL thanks to Tom Brady," Connolly says.
HOW MUCH HE HATES TO LOSE
The stories about Brady being uber-competitive are all true, and they started at a very young age.
Tom Sr. and his wife, Galynn, an Irish Catholic couple from Northern California, had three daughters before "Tommy" was born. Tom Sr. is sincere when he says this, that he would've been happy if child No. 4 was a girl, just as long as the child was healthy.
But it's clear that having a son made Tom Sr. very pleased. They were inseparable, and Tom Sr. started taking his boy to play golf when he was just 3. And by the age of 8, Tommy had developed an extreme distaste for losing. The taunting didn't help. Tom Sr. and the girls used to do that. Tom Sr. used to bet him a car wash if he won; a dollar if Tommy won. The boy ended up owing his dad more than 50 car washes. He never let him win.
One day, Tommy, 8 or 9 at the time, became so frustrated that he threw a golf club on the seventh hole. Tom Sr. told him to never do it again; Tommy did. So he made the pouting kid wait in the car to cool off while he kept playing. They eventually left, and Tommy begged him to go back to the course later that day and finish their nine holes.
"He swore he'd never throw a club again," Tom Sr. says.
He didn't. At least not that day.
"I'm sure he has since," Tom Sr. says.
HE DIDN'T COMPLETELY GROW OUT OF IT
So many stories of Brady's competitiveness, so little space. There was the time at Michigan when he got into a shouting match with his tight end, who also happened to be one of his best friends. They fought through the commercial break of a game against Ohio State, then laughed about it later.
This season, there was the much-publicized sideline spat between Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien that was played over and over on TV. The argument became so heated that Bill Belichick had to hold O'Brien back.
But people who are close to O'Brien and Brady just chuckle at the incident. Those guys are like that all the time, they say.
"They're very passionate about the game," backup quarterback Brian Hoyer says. "Obviously, it was a close game at the time. But five seconds later, they're sitting on the bench talking about what we're going to do if we get the ball back.
"It really wasn't a big deal at all."
HE DOESN'T LIKE TO SHARE
Hoyer, who spends 10 hours a day with Brady, could go on and on about all that he's learned from him. The first time they met, Brady introduced himself as Tom. Hoyer thought that was funny. Like there was any chance he didn't know who Brady was.
Anyway, there are advantages to playing behind a future Hall of Famer, but there are also big downsides. Hoyer rarely sees the field during the regular season; he threw just one pass in 2011. And even when he does get reps in practice, he has to fight for those.
"There's a few, but the way Tom is, he doesn't want to be out for too long," Hoyer says. "I'll be calling a play, and he'll come in and say, 'Get the hell out, I've got it.' That's how it's always been, and that's what makes him so great, his competitiveness and urgency."
BUT HE DOES INSPIRE
Brady matriculated at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., an all-boys Catholic school with a dress code and unbendable rules against earrings and long hair. He did not start his freshman year, his first year of football, and might not have started on JV, either, if the starting quarterback from the freshman team hadn't decided to stop playing football that next season.
"I think Tommy would've played anyway," Serra athletic director Dean Ayoob says with a laugh.
Ayoob was a senior when Brady was a freshman, and he remembers him much more for baseball. Brady, observers say, seemed to be more of a natural at that sport and probably would've been a second-round draft pick, a selection that would've been substantially higher than No. 199 in the NFL draft. But he always loved football more.
His initiative was apparent at a young age. On Sunday mornings, he'd gather his receivers together at his house for film review. The session lasted at least three hours every weekend. Galynn would make the boys lunch; Brady pored over what all of them -- himself included -- did wrong.
"Playing with Tommy made it fun," says John Kirby, his top receiver at Serra, "especially because we worked so hard to be on the same page."
There was a lot to review that senior year. Serra went 5-5, and it just about killed Brady.
He will be back later this month to speak at a scholarship fundraiser, and the tickets for the event sold out within days. Serra's football program has dramatically improved since Brady's days, and a couple of months ago, the Padres played in a division championship game.
Before the game, Brady sent Serra's football coach a text. Brady asked coach Patrick Walsh to read it to the team, and Walsh did, in the locker room five minutes before the game.
I'm so proud of the young men and how they represent our school. This will be the last game many of them will ever play. You will remember this for the rest of your lives. My advice is to play your butts off for four quarters and don't be outphysicaled.
"You should've seen the looks on our kids' faces," says Kirby, who's now Serra's assistant athletic director. "That's pretty cool that Tom Brady [was] waiting to hear how they did."
Serra won the championship.
HE ONCE HAD SIMPLE DREAMS
In those pride-swallowing days at the University of Michigan, when he was constantly trying to prove that he deserved to start, Brady used to sit up at night with his good friend Aaron Shea and talk about what they'd do when they made it big.
Shea, a tight end for the Wolverines, used to rattle off the typical 20-year-old dream purchases. He wanted a Hummer and a Ferrari. Then Shea would ask what Brady wanted.
"'If I hit it real big,'" Shea recalls Brady telling him, "'I want to be able to wake up, put a pair of socks on, and at the end of the day, I throw 'em away.'
"I'm like, 'That's all you want?' And he goes, 'Yeah, that's what I want. I love new socks.'"
HE STILL MAKES TIME FOR FRIENDS
Shea did make it to the big time, too. He played in the NFL for seven seasons and is now the director of player development for the Cleveland Browns. He still talks to Brady regularly, still considers him one of his closest friends, and recently had a favor to ask of him.
Shea makes a point not to bother his friend with much. He knows how many times people ask Brady for things. But Shea and his wife had a son, and Shea immediately knew who the godfather had to be. He wanted to someday tell his boy Kinzy all of his Tom Brady stories, and he wanted the kid to ask his godfather for some of his own.
Shea decided not to put his friend on the spot, so he asked him via text. He told him he'd understand if he was too busy to do it, and Brady replied by saying, "Are you kidding me? It would be an honor."
So they are waiting until the season was over to baptize Kinzy, and of course here's Tom, stretching out another season, playing in the Super Bowl. The boy is 7 months old now. Shea figures he can hold out a few more weeks.
"It will be well worth the wait," Shea says.
HIS WIFE FITS IN
So some of Brady's best friends on the team weigh at least 300 pounds. They spend their days in the trenches, bloody and beaten, trying to get an edge on an equally massive person. It ain't pretty. At some point, it was bound to happen that Brady would introduce Gisele to some of his work friends. Now, they haven't seen the couple's new house in California, which according to The Daily Mail is 22,000 square feet and complete with eight bedrooms, an elevator and a lagoon-shaped pool.
But Gisele, beautiful and elegant, appears to have no problem hanging with the Patriots' linemen. Connolly met her at a team function at the home of Patriots owner Robert Kraft a couple of years ago and says she was "just like any other player's wife."
Gisele proceeded to wrap the 313-pound Connolly in a hug.
"She's very cool," he says. "A very nice lady."
HIS LIFE ISN'T THAT INTERESTING ANYMORE
On the night of Jan. 22, the Patriots pulled off an AFC Championship Game victory against the Baltimore Ravens that was so dramatic, so relieving, that everyone wanted to celebrate. A friend asked Brady to go out; they'd hit the town. The old Tom Brady definitely would have gone.
Brady said he just wanted to go home and tuck his boys into bed.
He's been that way since his first son was born, but it's about more than that. Brady can't go anywhere without being followed, photographed and scrutinized. He probably didn't make life any easier for himself by marrying a Brazilian supermodel, Shea jokes.
When Brady was out for the season with a knee injury in 2008, Shea suggested they hop a flight to Las Vegas to get away.
Brady said he'd love to but couldn't. The photographers would be all over him. So he stayed home, which is apparently where he is during much of his free time.
"He's a homebody, contrary to what most people perceive," Tom Sr. says. "It's the strangest damn thing I've seen."
A FEW RANDOM THINGS
Brady keeps coconut water in his locker and occasionally dresses at the much-more incognito stall of cornerback Ras-I Dowling. A few teammates were asked about why he does that. They have no idea. He has numerous special relationships on this team. Kraft, who has been through a very emotional year after the loss of his wife, Myra, found Brady after the AFC Championship Game. He told his quarterback that he loved him.
HE LOVES THIS MOMENT
Tom Brady doesn't take any of this for granted. He knows he might never be on this stage again. Sure, people close to Brady say he believes he's infallible -- you have to believe that to play in the NFL -- and that he never doubted he'd be back after his gruesome knee injury in '08. But moments like this, in the Super Bowl, are never guaranteed.
Brady is here for the first time in four years, which seems like an eternity for a man who is so used to being one of the only two quarterbacks to be playing in February. He is savoring this time.
Hoyer went out to dinner with Brady on Monday night at St. Elmo steakhouse, and they were mobbed on the way out. It wasn't just the women who were screaming for Brady, Hoyer says. The guys were, too.
"I've never seen anything like that in my life," Hoyer says.
Brady has, and maybe it's all getting a bit repetitive. It doesn't matter. The story, come Sunday night, will once again change.
There is so much more to New England's star quarterback than his supermodel wife and 22,000-square-foot mansion.