Safe to say, we were saving the best for last. After a number of Draft Masters podcasts, and interviews with several draft prospects, we thought we'd get some guy by the name of Tom Brady on the phone (thanks to our good friends at Under Armour) and see if he had anything interesting to say.
As you'd expect, he did.
In this exclusive interview with Shutdown Corner, the New England Patriots superstar quarterback talks about the reaction he had during the "Brady Six" Show on ESPN, what all those teams who passed on him missed out on in the evaluation process, how it helped him to learn behind Drew Bledsoe after the Pats finally did take him in the sixth round, how he's managed to become that rare scheme-transcendent quarterback, how his relationship with Bill Belichick has changed over the years, and what he'd tell any quarterback the Patriots decided to draft this year.
Yes, it's a must-listen. We'd also like to direct your attention to the UStream chat and Q&A Brady did with fans on Friday morning for Under Armour.
Click on the link below to listen to our exclusive interview (or right-click to save to your hard drive). And.or, scroll on down and read the transcript.
Shutdown Corner: The Brady Six reaction — where did that come from and how does that still drive you?
Tom Brady: I think there's always been an inner confidence that I had, that I have felt that I can lead a team. So it's a really inexact process, when you evaluate talent through watching college games, or Combine, or Senior Bowl. It takes—you know there is a lot of guys who were passed up on. So it's not always the first-round picks who are the most successful ones. It's a different game in the NFL. In order to be successful you've got to be a professional. You've got to understand what the coach is looking for, day in and day out, and you've got to be a selfless player that's willing to do whatever it takes for the team, so the guys that really understand that tend to succeed. The guys that don't, you know, they're shipped on and shipped out. That's typically what happens.
I think the motivation comes from a lot of different places. It's not the one experience, like it was in the draft, or you know, that's something that I look on and say 'Ok well, there's a reason why I was picked where I was picked'. And the reason why I think that I've overcome that, and why all the other players have overcome those things is that they're willing to work hard. They're willing to pay the price. They're willing to commit to it, make it every day, their priority in their life. So that's the lesson I learned from that more than anything, not 'Oh man, just because you're picked in the sixth round, you still got a chance'. No, you've got to put the work in. And if you work hard, and you're committed, and obviously you need to have the talent, or else nobody would even consider you. Then you have a chance, and that's just about taking advantage of your opportunities.
SC: How beneficial was it for you to sit, instead of being in a position where you had to start right away?
TB: Well, I think you watch another incredible player and learn from them and see what makes them successful. And someone like Drew Bledsoe, who had an incredible amount of success as a player, and as a leader. I was fortunate to have him as a role model when I came into the league, because I could just sit back and watch. It was an incredibly valuable experience from just watching. And watching how teammates react and respond, and how coaches react and respond. There are other great leaders, as well, when I first got to the team. From Lawyer Milloy to Ty Law and Willie McGinest, you know all those guys had a huge influence on my career.
SC: You're a rare bird in that you've played at a league-best level in a lot of different offenses — run-first with Corey Dillon, shotgun-heavy with Randy Moss, and running more two-TE than just about anyone else with the rookies. How does a quarterback become scheme-transcendent? It seems like a pretty rare thing.
TB: I think I've been very fortunate to play in the same system my entire career. So even though the coordinators have changed, even though the players have changed, I think what our offense has always allowed its players to do is be flexible within the system. We're going to do what best suits the talents of our players. So I've been in the , like you said, the Corey Dillon-type offense, I've been in the more of a spread offense, more of a shotgun. And I think that I'm very comfortable in doing whatever it takes for us to win. That's the goal. It's not 'Ok, we need to throw it 60% of the time', we need to get the ball in the end zone, and however we're going to get the ball in the end zone, that's how we're going to run our offense.
SC: Coach Belichick is obviously known as a no-nonsense guy who wants things to run at a certain level. How was your relationship different with him in the early days than it is now? Obviously a lot more trust between you at this point.
TB: "Well, pretty early. I think he wants players that love football. He wants players that are committed to the team. And the guys that have been around and lasted, those are pretty common traits. He's a very demanding coach, and it's not an easy program to play in, but as far as I'm concerned, that means we're going to win a lot of games. And that's why we play. It's not to be coddled. It's not to be told how great you are. You play, and you're playing to win. And the coach that I've always felt gives us the best chance to win is Coach Belichick. I think I'm very fortunate to play for him, and learn all those valuable lessons from him, as well.
SC: If the Patriots were to draft a quarterback this weekend, would he be able to start before the end of his first contract, or are you going to make that kid wait a long time?
TB: (Laughs) I think one thing when you're part of a team, you realize that the best player plays. So if I'm the best player, then I expect to play. If I'm not the best player then you've got to move over and make room for somebody else. And I get up every day trying to be the best player I can be for the team. And that will never change.
SC: Did you ever imagine that your name would lead a major lawsuit as it does on Brady v. NFL?
TB: No, you know. I don't think anybody, when we signed the last labor deal, thought it would come to this. This is something the players have been preparing for. Something that our union leadership had been preparing for, and you know, look, there's four months until the start of the season. There's a lot of meetings, and negotiations that need to take place. Hopefully we're moving towards getting something resolved, because the players, we want to play football. And I think that's the goal for all of us.