SUPER BOWL XXXIX Brady draws comparisons to his idol
His competitive spirit is similar to that of legendaryquarterback Joe Montana.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The dimpled chin, the middling pedigree, the unspectacular stats, the aw-shucks manners.
Don't let it all fool you: Tom Brady is a tenacious competitor.
"He may be a pretty boy," former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw said, "but I don't think there's any lack of fire there. I don't think he would hesitate to take your face off if he thought it would help his team win.
"Montana was like that."
The comparison is being thrown around a lot this week. Brady already has two Super Bowl MVP awards, matching Bart Starr and Bradshaw and one behind the former 49ers quarterback Brady idolized while growing up in San Francisco.
"His name's been mentioned with some of the all-time greats, as it should be," said former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who will broadcast the game with Bradshaw for FOX TV. "He's played great in the big ball games, which I think is the way you measure it."
Aikman was the MVP of the 1993 game and winner of three Super Bowls in a four-year span, another feat Brady could match with a victory Sunday. But unlike Aikman, Brady has done it with steady leadership more than flashy statistics.
"He's the key. He is the heart and soul of the team," Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse said Tuesday. "He doesn't have really big numbers in any category. He just wins games. He's got some pretty big numbers in the wins category. He just does what it takes."
Brady's numbers are solid, but they seem lackluster in comparison to those put up by AFC rivals such as Peyton Manning who regularly start in front of him at the Pro Bowl. In three-plus seasons as a starter, Brady averages 220 yards per game. He's thrown 97 touchdowns, 52 interceptions and completed 61 percent of his passes.
But he hasn't missed a start in 62 games.
"Tom Brady is one of the toughest players I've ever been around," coach Bill Belichick said. "It's not like he's the most athletic quarterback in the league. But he stands in there and takes the hits and he makes throws."
A sixth-round draft choice who only had one year as the undisputed starter at Michigan, Belichick saw enough in him to use a coveted roster spot on him as a fourth quarterback for the 2000 season.
"It's very unlikely for any kid growing up. It's unlikely for every guy on the roster," Brady said. "It's so hard to reach the professional level. I think every kid I knew growing up wanted to be a professional athlete. The odds are definitely against you."
After a summer of weightlifting, Brady leapfrogged to second on the depth chart, taking over for Drew Bledsoe when the franchise quarterback sheared a blood vessel in his chest in Week 2 of the 2001 season.
In just his third game as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to the game-tying and game-winning drives to come back from a 10 point fourth-quarter deficit.
"In two of his first three games, he showed a lot of poise and production," Belichick said when asked if there was a point that convinced him Brady was special. "That led to other opportunities later in the year and ultimately the St. Louis game."
Against the Rams in his first Super Bowl, with less than a year of experience as a starter, Brady moved the Patriots into position for Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal as time expired for New England's first NFL title.
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