Tom Brady: The Only Way Is Through

Tom Brady
The Players Tribune

What does it mean to change, and to challenge yourself, again and again?

Whether it’s a month ago, last year, five years or 10 years ago, the fact is every person — and every athlete — faces changes. Everyone comes up against challenges. Whether they’re physical, mental or emotional, they’re part of everyone’s lives. I’m no exception.

Twenty years ago, I was a sixth-round draft choice from the University of Michigan who wasn’t sure he was going to get drafted at all. When the call finally came, I packed up all my things and moved to the other side of the country. I didn’t know how long I’d be playing for the New England Patriots, or whether I’d even get the opportunity to play for them. (I was the fourth quarterback on the depth chart my first year.) I had no idea I would spend the next 20 years in New England, or start a family there.

The same thing was true in 2008, too. I couldn’t have predicted what would happen when, on the second drive of the season opener against Kansas City — on my 15th snap of the game — I shredded my ACL and MCL, and spent the next few months getting surgery and rehab on my way to a full recovery.

Changes and challenges are part of life. They’re part of athletes’ lives. They’re supposed to happen. They need to happen sometimes.

These changes can be emotional, too. For as long as I can remember, my career, and football in general, has been an extremely important and gratifying part of my life. But just as important, and oftentimes more gratifying, are the times I spend with my wife and children, and the joy I feel watching my kids get older. In my case this means always checking in with myself and with them to make sure my priorities are in the right place — and if they’re not, making adjustments.

Changes and challenges are part of life. They’re part of athletes’ lives. They’re supposed to happen. They need to happen sometimes.

 There’s no rulebook, either. Finding a balance between the things and the people you love, and allocating time for both, is how each of us grows. Benny and Vivian, my two youngest children, are now 10 and seven. They’re not babies anymore. That means that being a dad — and showing up at my kids’ soccer or hockey games, and being present for them — really matters to me. Finding that balance is a continuous process. It’s always changing, too. These days for example, my oldest boy, Jack, sometimes joins me on the field to work out or throw the football!    

 Twenty years ago, I arrived in New England from a different coast, a different part of the country and a different culture. Today, I’m transitioning into another chapter of my life and career. It involves gathering up all the things I’ve learned in my life so far and moving to a different coast, a different part of the country and a different culture. If that feels familiar, there’s a good reason why. Because that’s how it started.

 My journey over the past 20 years in New England has been amazing. It’s been a long road, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

I was blessed to grow up in an amazing family, with loving, supportive parents and siblings. I left San Mateo and flew 3,000 miles to the other side of the country, eventually raising a family of my own outside Boston. Now I’m moving on to another chapter, another experience.

When you play for one team for two decades, change is exciting. It’s also challenging. Just packing up the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years, it’s natural to ask, Where am I going to put that in my new space?

When you pack things up, you realize that some things fit perfectly, and other things don’t fit anymore. You either leave behind what no longer fits or you make an extra effort to make it fit.  

The changes and challenges I’m facing now are physical, mental and emotional — and the only way is through. I’m taking all the things I’ve learned so far as an athlete into this new chapter, while continuing my journey as a husband and father with my family. The most important thing? Enjoying every moment. Because it goes by so fast.

For me, playing football isn’t going to last another 10 years. In the time left, the question is, How can I keep maximizing what I do, put everything I can into it, make it the best I possibly can? At this point in my career, the only person I have to prove anything to is myself. Physically, I’m as capable of doing my job as I’ve ever been. Now I want to see what more I can do. I want to see how great I can be. I want to hear other people say, “Go, man. Now that’s what we’ve been missing. That’s what we need! That’s what we’ve been looking for!” Deep down I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. Now I want to see it in action.

My training and conditioning hasn’t changed over the years. It may be the off-season now, but to me it feels like the season has already started. It’s like getting ready to run a race. You’re not thinking about the race or the finish line. You’re getting ready, lacing up your sneakers, running in place, shaking everything out, finding your groove.

When it’s time for the race to start, you put one foot in front of the other. The rest isn’t up to you. Everything will happen at the pace that it needs to happen. You can’t know what it’ll be like until then. So why not appreciate and enjoy the journey?


I’ve had so many friends and teammates over the years who’ve come and gone. I was always the one guy who never had to move. As I said before, playing for one team for 20 years has been an amazing ride and experience. But doing the same thing year after year brings its own challenges. A familiar rhythm can be comforting and great. But it can also make you lose sight of other rhythms, newer ones that remind you of everything that hasn’t been done yet. One isn’t necessarily better than another — they’re different, is all. Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a change, a challenge, an opportunity to lead and collaborate, and also to be seen and heard. And I know my time there will be as amazing in its own way as what came before.

It will be different — that goes with the territory. Different coaches. Different players. Different programs. Right now I have no idea how to get to Raymond James Stadium, or where the meeting rooms are, or where everybody sits. It will be a learning curve, in the same way it was remembering that the Atlantic Ocean is always due east.

Still, I’m excited. Most of all, I’m motivated. I want to deliver for my new team, my new coaches and my new teammates. I don’t want to let anyone down. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

The welcome and warmth I’ve gotten from the players and coaches in Tampa Bay has been so gratifying. For my part, I’ve loved getting to know a new group of young players.

They’ve welcomed me as one of their own. They want to listen to what I have to say. I’m excited to be embraced fully for what I can bring to the Bucs. In turn I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do — and what I bring — and is willing to go on this ride with me.

I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do — and what I bring — and is willing to go on this ride with me.

Here’s another great thing that happens as you get older — you want to see other players succeed. A lot of veteran players were mentors to me during my years as a Patriot. They were there for me when I signed a second contract. They were there for Super Bowl wins, and when I got married. They saw me develop, and grow, and eventually start a family. Along with the opportunity to win championships, the support of older teammates is an amazing part of playing for a team. Doing whatever I can to help younger players evolve as people and players matters a lot to me. I’ve learned so much during my 20 years in New England — and I want to bring those things to a new team.

Right now, though, I have things to prove to myself. The only way is through. If I don’t go for it, I’ll never know what I could have accomplished. Wanting to do something is different from actually doing it. If I stood at the bottom of a mountain, and told myself I could scale the highest peak, but then didn’t do anything about it, what’s the point of that?

I’m trying to do things that have never been done in my sport. That’s actually fun for me, too, because I know I can do them. When a team gives you the opportunity to do those things with them, well … if not with them, then who?

At some point, you have to throw your whole body into what you’re doing. You have to say, Let’s ride. Let’s see what we got.

I want to show everybody what I got.

In partnership with Under Armour.

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