This piece is going to be a bit more personal for me than other articles I write. On Wednesday morning, Tom Brady retired from the game of football, this time for good. There will be no return on twitter or dropping hints about his football future. The GOAT has said goodbye and with that, I wanted to take this opportunity on this platform I have to say goodbye to him.
For my entire life, Tom Brady has been my sports idol. Someone I always looked up to.
I know this going to make some of you reading this feel really old and for that I apologize, but I am 21 years old and love the game of football. My very first memory of watching an NFL game? February 3rd, 2008. The New York Giants against the New England Patriots. My family that was over was mostly rooting for the Giants, except me. I was sitting there rooting for the team wearing the navy blue jerseys and silver helmets. A lot of my family members wondered why I was rooting for the Patriots. I didn’t know many players at the time or who was good or bad and I didn’t really have any reason to root for either team.
There was just something about number 12 in navy.
I am from just outside the Philadelphia area and around here, you aren’t supposed to like Tom Brady, but that never mattered to me. Nobody quite understood why I supported Brady the way I did and honestly, at first I didn’t either. Like I said, there was just something about 12. I would often get joked around with about my liking for him, all in good fun of course but I found myself defending the GOAT quite often.
As the years began to pass, I got more into football and started to learn a lot more and with that, came a lot more knowledge about the Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady. He was a sixth round pick? How? If he was drafted so late, then how did he become so good? There were six other quarterbacks drafted before him? No way. The more I learned, the more invested I became in the story that was Tom Brady.
Every AFC championship game, every Super Bowl. If the Bucs weren’t playing in it, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who I was rooting for to win on that day. I remember exactly where I was standing when I watched Malcolm Butler pick off Russell Wilson in the endzone and secure Brady’s fourth championship. I will never forget holding onto every little bit of hope that Brady could pull off a miracle comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. With the wins, also came the defeats. I remember being crushed and my hands on knees with my head down when Brady was strip sacked during Super Bowl 52, pretty much clinching a Philadelphia Eagles win. TB12 had played so well in that game and is still the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500+ yards in the big game. Then Brady went back to one more Super Bowl with New England and finished the job this time, winning his sixth championship.
In his final year in New England, the Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans and Brady’s final pass was a pick six. I tweeted out my thoughts on it immediately after... little did I know.
It can’t end like this....— Evan Wanish (@EvanNFL) January 5, 2020
Brady would become a free agent and there was a lot of speculation whether that was his last game in the NFL, or just the last in a Patriots uniform. I personally figured he would eventually return to New England for one more run but where he ended up I could have never imagined. The Buccaneers were in on Brady right from the jump and while I thought their interest was real, it always felt like Brady would never put on another uniform... until March 17th, 2020 when it was reported that Brady was indeed going to join the Buccaneers. My favorite football player ever joining my favorite team? Even though I had started to cover the Bucs in a media form at that time and was trying to remain as unbiased as possible, it was still hard to contain my excitement.
This was tweeted while the Pats were losing to the Titans in the playoffs— Evan Wanish (@EvanNFL) March 18, 2020
Quick update: it didn’t end https://t.co/KdigyMC3XI
In 2020, Brady would take the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the run that followed was something out of a Hollywood movie (no, the NFL is not scripted). The Bucs won a playoff game, and then another, and then another... They found themselves in Super Bowl 55 and it was still pretty hard to grasp my thoughts around it all. It didn’t feel real. The team that I watched have losing season after losing season was going to the Super Bowl with Tom Brady as their quarterback? No way, but it was very much real and just like February 3rd, 2008, February 7th, 2021 is a day I will never, ever forget.
It was an emotional night for me. My dad has been a Bucs fan ever since their inception in 1976 and it was special for him as there were times where he never imagined seeing another championship, but he also knew how much Brady meant to me and I was too young to witness the first Bucs Super Bowl, so this was unbelievably special. There I sat, even though I should say stood most of the time in front of my TV, wearing my red Bucs Brady jersey watching it all unfold. Being able to see the team you have rooted for your entire life win a Super Bowl is so special, but it is even more special when your favorite player ever is on the team and is a big reason why they won.
The two years that followed that were a continuation of a great era of Buccaneers football including back-to-back division championships and even though this past season did not go the way anyone wanted, it was still awesome to just see Brady in a Bucs uniform once again. I was able to watch him play in person on multiple occasions, including a game winning drive against the Rams this past season which was simply put, awesome.
I had the privilege of flying down to Tampa and going to training camp this past year as a credentialed media member to cover some practices for BucsNation and my first day there, who was scheduled to have a post practice press conference other than Tom Brady. I couldn’t believe my luck. So many different occasions he could have a press conference and it just so happened to be when I was there? You gotta be kidding me. I understood that I had a job to do but when Brady was beginning to speak, I decided I would let my colleague James Hill get video and quotes, I just wanted to take in this moment, being just a few feet away from the man who I never imagined I would be able to be that close to in my life. I put my phone down and just watched and listened to him answer every question. Truly a surreal experience for a kid who never could have imagined he would be in this position.
Brady was not only a pleasure to watch on the field, but he was someone I modeled my athletics after. For the longest time, I played Dek Hockey which is essentially ice hockey except on blacktop and sneakers as well as played with a ball instead of a puck. I watched how Brady went about his business of trying to be the greatest and never settling and I applied that to my Dek Hockey career. I saw how fierce of a competitor he was. How he would never stand for losing and always pushed himself to be the best version of himself that he could be and that really resonated with me. His love for not only the sport he played, but also his teammates, his friends and his family who supported him every step of the way was something I always strived to accomplish. I tried to be the best leader and player possible for my team because that is what I always watched Tom Brady do.
The only thing I couldn’t do was the TB12 method. Sorry Tom, but I just can’t do that.
So, as I sit here and write this, I am reminded of the old saying, don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened. I will genuinely miss watching Tom Brady play football, but I am also extremely grateful that I was able to witness greatness for so many years and these last three years in particular even closer. If Brady had walked away at the end of the 2019 season or went to a different team in 2020, I still would have felt the same way about him as I do right now but it is just extra special that I was able to watch and cover him play for and have immense success for the team I grew up supporting.
There will never be another Tom Brady. To the seven-time Super Bowl champion, five-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time league MVP and greatest Quarterback of all time, thank you. Thank you for not only providing excitement on the football field on Sundays, but also for being an idol to me and so many others for so many years.
Goodbye Tom Brady. Thank you again and now go enjoy that retirement, for good this time.