ATLANTA — The (Almost) Annual Brady Family Picture was released on Instagram on Saturday night. It’s a tradition that is unique because it takes place nearly every year on the day before the Super Bowl, on the field of the Super Bowl, that Tom Brady will play in.
In this case, that’s three years running and four of the past five. Brady will play in his ninth Super Bowls altogether on Sunday, but three of those predate Instagram’s 2010 founding. Old-school film had to suffice back then.
The New England Patriots like to skip practice on the Saturday before the game and instead allow each player and coach to bring their family to the field. Forget a last-minute walk thru, Mercedes Benz Stadium where the Pats will play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, was overrun with kids and parents and sisters and brothers, all in it for photos and fun.
“This is a dream for every player to play in this game, so to be able to share it with loved ones and family is special,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick, who had his 2-year-old granddaughter, Blakely, there, among others. “We have tried to embrace it.”
That certainly includes the most famous Patriot of them all. Brady over the years has used the Saturday Super Bowl photo to signify hope and happiness, triumphs and concerns. Two years ago it was just he and his father, Tom Sr., each planting a kiss on the cheek of Galynn Brady, who had been battling cancer but had summoned enough strength to come to Houston to watch her son.
That was a sign of gratitude, honor and perspective.
The past two years, it has been a full ensemble of smiling kids, spouses, nieces and nephews – including a now healthy Galynn.
These are photos of joy, appreciation and support.
It’s easy to assume that a guy who is rich and famous and makes the big game seemingly every year is somehow different than everyone else, but at 41 Brady does everything he can to remain grounded and aware of what matters most. He is, at this point, as much a suburban dad as anything else.
“Family and Football,” Brady wrote.
He isn’t alone, of course. So much work goes into reaching the Super Bowl that no player gets here alone. Maybe it’s the parents who drove them to practices as kids or worked extra jobs for their child’s extra training. Maybe it’s the sibling who pushed them in backyard games. Maybe it’s the wives and children who sacrifice family time during the long season.
The Rams had a similar experience, with the field full of families, selfies and impromptu games breaking out. There was C.J. Anderson’s mom and Aqib Talib’s son and whole slew of Andrew Whitworth’s kids. Just Friday night, Whitworth was hosting a dinner for nearly 20 at a Buckhead steak house.
“For a lot of guys it’s their first [Super Bowl],” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “And I think it’s definitely something you want to cherish.”
For Brady, it’s a record ninth but it’s clear he is cherishing it as much as any of the previous ones. While he has managed to get here more often than any other player, he never believes it is easily accomplished.
Besides, across his career, these events have changed. In February of 2002, he was 24, single and still not well known. He’s said his first three Super Bowls were about winning for himself, his dedicated parents and his three older sisters, all great athletes of their own growing up in San Mateo, California.
This last stretch of them has increasingly been about sharing them with his wife Gisele Bundchen and his children, who each year become older and thus more of their own people.
Jack is now 11 and is a huge football fan. Benny is 9 has other interests than his father’s profession. Daughter Vivian is 6 and clearly has her father wrapped around her finger.
“I’ll talk to my son Jack about the game and what he thought of the game and he’ll be like, ‘Dad, what were you doing on this play? Why didn’t you just do this?’” Brady said this week, laughing at the retelling. “He watches football and his buddies talk about football and that’s just a great thing for a dad, and for all of us, when our kids are interested in what we’re doing.
“My son Benny, I don’t know if he’ll watch one play in the game but the fact he gets popcorn and a bunch of junk food is what I think he looks forward to,” Brady continued.
“And V, she’s the little cheerleader,” Brady said. “She’ll tell me, ‘Hey Daddy, did you hear me? I said, ‘Go Daddy Go!’’ And I’ll go, ‘Of course I heard you!’ ”
He may be the greatest quarterback in the history of football, but this week he sounded more like your typical father, proud of his family.
“The kids bring so much perspective to our lives and they’re the most beautiful things in our life, so joyful,” Brady said. “The fact that they’re getting older and they get to share this with me is really creating so many memories, obviously for them, but for me too in ways that were different when I was younger.”
One of these years the annual Super Bowl photo shoot will come to an end. Yes, even for Tom Brady. Until then, this might be the moment Brady looks forward to the most though, a chance, like every player here, to reflect on a season of accomplishment and offer thanks to those most important to helping them get there.
“It’s a really cool thing,” Brady said.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Watch Super Bowl LIII live stream free with the Yahoo Sports app
• LeBron, Durant wear Kaepernick jerseys ahead of Super Bowl LIII
• Lakers reportedly underwhelm Pelicans with initial Davis offer
• Patriots’ McCourty twins living out their childhood dream