BEREA − There was a time where Jacoby Brissett wasn't the locker room graybeard. A time where the quarterback wasn't the sage veteran, but the wide-eyed rookie just trying to find his way around the league.
That was 2016, when Brissett was a 23-year-old third-round pick of the New England Patriots. On top of having to try and learn the ropes of being a professional, he had to share a position room with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.
For Brissett, sharing a room with Tom Brady was akin to a younger sibling sharing one with his older one. He was determined to soak up as much as he could from his then-39-year-old teammate.
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"I was that kid that was annoying as hell and kind of just, wherever he went I tried to follow, the places that I could go, and just trying to get as much information," Brissett said Wednesday. "And even during games just talking to him about stuff that he saw about certain things. Obviously not all the time cause the game’s a little different, but I was one of those guys that kind of tried to be a sponge.”
Whether or not Brady actually wanted all of Brissett's attention, only he can say. Whether or not, in the moment, Brady said something to him − like, "Leave me alone" or "Get away from me" − Brissett, now the Browns' quarterback, can't quite recall.
“He probably did but I probably still said something to him,” said Brissett, who started two games that rookie season due to Brady's four-game suspension for Deflategate.
Brissett figures to say something again to Brady on Sunday. Only this time, they'll be on different teams when the Browns host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For Brissett, it's likely his final start of the season. Deshaun Watson is slated to return from his 11-game suspension next week when the Browns travel to Houston, and has already been named the starter for that game.
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For Brady, it's likely his final start in Cleveland. The 45-year-old retired for a brief moment this past offseason, but unretired for what is now his 23rd season.
Brissett may not have known if he was going to be the Browns' starter when Tampa Bay came to town at the time he signed with them on March 19. He admits he certainly didn't expect to see Brady, who unretired six days before he signed in Cleveland, in the game.
“No," Brissett said. "I would not think he would be playing right now, but not surprised that he is.”
What shouldn't, and isn't, a surprise to Brissett is the level at which Brady is playing despite his age. The seven-time Super Bowl champion long ago showed that age was just a number for him in terms of his performance on the field.
Brady comes into Sunday's game having won 65 regular-season since he turned 40, which would coincide with Brissett's second season in the league. The next four highest quarterback win totals over the age of 40 − Drew Brees (17), Brett Favre (13), Warren Moon (11) and Vinny Testaverde (eight) − combine for 49.
It's more than just the career accomplishments. Even this season, Brady has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league, leading it in completions (282) and attempts (427), while ranking fourth in passing yards (2,805) and posting the fewest interceptions (two) of any starter in the league.
“I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s still playing right now," Brissett said. "Just the best to ever do it, playing wise, teammate wise, you know just his love and passion for the game, his understanding of football and his competitive nature. There’s just so many things I could say about him.”
What Brissett could say most about him goes back to what he experienced as that fresh-faced rookie with the Patriots. By that point in his career, Brady had already established himself as arguably the greatest quarterback ever, and certainly arguably the league's greatest winner.
It was the standard to which Brady held himself that trickled down to those around him. It's what allowed Brissett to experience a Super Bowl championship before he was dealt from the Patriots to the Indianapolis Colts prior to the 2017 season.
Yet, to Brissett, what was most striking was the fact that, despite the high standard of personal success and A-list celebrity, Brady wasn't that person to his teammates. That's why, to this day, he holds him on such a high level.
“Because everybody looks at him as Tom Brady and he doesn’t think he is Tom Brady, I would say," Brissett said. "I know from the first day I met him, he’s been the same guy. Honestly, he held me to a higher standard than I probably held myself in the beginning of my career and there are so many things I could say about him.”
Things that, no doubt, Brissett could say after he faces Brady on Sunday afternoon.
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Jacoby Brissett credits Tom Brady for lessons learned as a rookie