FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will extend his NFL record by playing in his 10th conference championship game on Sunday, further distancing himself from his boyhood idol Joe Montana (seven) in a run of success that has surprised many, including himself.
"It's beyond what I'd ever imagined, in my wildest dreams," Brady said Monday morning during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, reflecting on his first championship game appearance in the 2001 season at Pittsburgh: "That was the first time it really felt like, 'Wow, this is a big deal.' Fifteen years later, to be part of 10 of those, I'd never imagined that any of this was even possible. I just knew that I loved the game and I've played with so many great teammates who have sacrificed so much. ... You never take it for granted."
Brady's 10 appearances are more than 27 teams have made.
To advance to his seventh Super Bowl, Brady will look to lead the Patriots past his longtime friend and rival, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. This is the 17th meeting between them, with Brady holding an 11-5 edge.
"We've known each other for a long time, being in the same profession for all these years and at different events, we've developed a good friendship," Brady said on WEEI. "It's pretty remarkable for him, what he's accomplished this season, and to lead the team to a great win. The Steelers were playing as well as any team in the league, so that was a huge win for them yesterday.
"It will be fun to play another Peyton Manning-led team."
The game is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET at Denver, where Brady is 2-6 in his career. When informed of his career record in Denver during his WEEI interview, Brady said he was unaware of it.
"It's a great football environment. They've had some good teams when we've played out there. I didn't realize we were 2-6, but the crowd gets into it, they have a good team, like this year," he said. "We just have to play our best, that's what it comes down to. We've had a lot of close games there. I think it always comes down to something at the end. We've already been out there once this year and I think we've learned a lot from that experience."
The Patriots lost to the Broncos 26-20 in overtime on Nov. 29.