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SUPER BOWL Football gives Brady crossover celebrity status

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The New England Patriots' quarterback was a guest at the president's speech.
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The State of the Union was neat. Disney World's a hoot. One can only guess what Tom Brady thought about the Playboy Mansion.
For the New England Patriots quarterback, though, none of the canoodling or hobnobbing that he has done in the last two years ranks with the Super Bowl victory that first made him a crossover star worthy of the gossip columns and the front page.
"I've had some great experiences," Brady said Thursday, two days after watching the President's speech as a guest of first lady Laura Bush. "A lot of that is because of the success we've had on the field, and a lot of that success is because of the guys I'm playing with.
"Hopefully, the stories I bring back for those guys give them a taste of what it's all about. It's been a great couple of years. But when that success on the football field goes away, so do all the really neat things I get to do. That's why football is always going to be No. 1."
Good decision-maker
The dimpled chin and boyish good looks may make women swoon, but what's more important to Brady is that his coaches and teammates swear by him. In a job that requires him to constantly read and react to defenses, Brady always seems to make the right decision.
"He knows what it takes," offensive lineman Matt Light said after New England advanced to the NFL title game for the second time in three years. "He will lead us the rest of the way, I'm sure."
The 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Brady was Drew Bledsoe's backup until a chest-cracking hit knocked the franchise quarterback out of the Patriots' starting lineup two games into the 2001 season, never to return. Brady did not throw an interception in his first 162 pass attempts -- an NFL record -- and won 11 of his first 14 regular season starts.
His poised and efficient leadership took New England to the Super Bowl, though with their untested quarterback they were two-touchdown underdogs to the St. Louis Rams. Brady took a nap on the floor of the locker room before the game and then engineered one of the biggest upsets in football history, leading the Patriots 53 yards in the final minutes to set up Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired.
New England won 20-17, and Brady was the game's MVP -- the first of a wide variety of honors to follow.
There were trips to the White House and Hef's House. He judged a beauty contest and was spotted with his share of them. Donald Trump reportedly wanted to fix him up with his daughter.
"I think that first year I took it for granted, I really did," Brady said. "After that third or fourth week of the year, I was going nonstop. This year, it's been quite a bit different. I'm really enjoying it," he said. "I am happy to head down there for a second time."
Brady finished third in the league MVP voting this season, behind co-winners Steve McNair and Peyton Manning -- two quarterbacks with gaudier passing numbers and flashier skills. Then, Brady went out and led the Patriots to playoff victories over McNair's Tennessee Titans and Manning's Indianapolis Colts.
He is 34-12 in the regular season as a starter -- the best winning percentage of any active quarterback. He is an unblemished 7-0 in overtime games and 5-0 in the playoffs. He has led the Patriots to victory 14 times when they were losing or tied after the start of the fourth quarter.
He did not throw an interception at home in the 2003 regular season, and had just one in the playoffs as New England went 12-0 in Foxboro from the exhibition season to the postseason.
"Tom Brady is the greatest winner in football right now. I don't care what anybody says," cornerback Ty Law said. "Maybe his numbers are not eye-popping -- all these yards, all these touchdowns -- but he knows how to win ball games. What are stats when you are sitting at home?