You might imagine that as one of the most prosperous athletes in sports, Tom Brady wallows in decadent comfort. But the reality he describes is a Spartan life full of "concessions" to his craft -- the clean eating, the early nights, the gut-wrenching workouts.
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And his dedication speaks for itself when you consider how long he's reigned in the NFL.
“There’s no other 39-year-olds playing now at quarterback” as a starter, he says.
He has a good point.
Brady turns 39 in August and that’s hard to believe, very hard to believe. Was it really that long ago that New England shocked the world and beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI? (That’s 36, we just had 50 this past year.)
So, when you put together all the concessions Brady says he makes, maybe it’s worth it.
“Maybe a different part of my life, when my kids get a little older, when my career ends, I’ll have a lot more time to do things," Brady says.
Just not now.
Not a Leisure Trip
The Bentley Suite at the St. Regis Hotel just below Central Park in New York City is the epitome of luxury, especially on this day. It’s 3 p.m. on Monday, the first room in this ridiculous suite is the dining room. The table is filed with crab cakes, spring rolls and anything you want to drink. A butler hovers by the fridge at the ready.
His attentiveness is lost on a room full of reporters.
Brady’s in town to promote Simmons new mattress Beautyrest Black. His 30-second spot is playing on a loop in the room on an approximately 70-inch TV. The guy is dressed to the nines, pocket square and all. The impressiveness of the suite is only heightened when you realize that as you leave the kitchen, there’s another living room on your way to meet Brady in the bedroom. (Don’t get any ideas, it’s a promotion for diamond-infused memory foam.)
After a legit 30-second walk to the room, where cameras, lights and sound are all set up, Brady’s sitting in a director’s chair, all smiles. He’s joking around with the sound guy and even has his jacket off. But this is no leisure trip.
Aside from the obvious reasons, he’s not here to enjoy NYC. Brady explains he had practice this morning and flew in after for only a few hours. He's eager to get back to New England.
“I fly back tonight and then practice tomorrow morning,” he says. “That’s the way it goes right now.”
The man’s not kidding. Aside from being the face of Beautyrest Black, he’s got a cook book coming out (for $200), endorsements with Movado, Vitamin Water, his training company TB12 Sports and, yeah, that football thing he’s pretty good at. He has a family too, which you may have read about once or twice.
“As you get older, you have more responsibilities, you have more commitments, more events, kids, you’re married now,” he says of his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, since 2009. “You still have all the things that you’ve had, plus you just keep adding. I got a lot.”
Being Tom Brady isn’t easy.
Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost, he’s never up to watch shows like “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead.”
“Yeah, none of that,” he says, laughing. “I don’t go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. and say, ‘Let’s see if I can get this done today.’”
In fact, it’s in bed by 8:30 p.m. and up at 5:30 a.m.
“Because my career is so important, I think I make a lot of, I wouldn’t call them sacrifices, but just concessions for my job. I love what I do and I want to do it for a long time,” he adds.
And he’s done it for a long time.
Brady has 11 trips to the Pro Bowl and four Super Bowl wins. Still, it doesn’t seem possible that he was drafted all the way back in 2000. Many of the players drafted in the 198 picks before him (he was taken by the Pats in the sixth round) are gone today. Jamal Lewis, LaVar Arrington, Brian Urlacher, Plaxico Burress, all retired. Some are even analysts on TV. Not Brady, he threw for 4,700 yards last year. Sure, Drew Brees threw for 4,800, but he’s only 37.
Brady is honest when he details those “concessions.”
“Sometimes, it’s hard to cut things out, for me where I cut is like my friends, they probably don’t get as much time as they used to,” he says. “When you’re one of the leaders of the team, there are no days off.”
Then there’s the diet that’s been so widely reported on and talked about. Brady is humble, but still laughs when a pizza and bag of chips are mentioned.
“If you like it you should enjoy it!” he says. “Moderation in everything. If there’s things you really love, you should enjoy. You get one life, so you should enjoy it.”
But that “you” doesn’t mean Brady, at least for the time being.
“I have to make different choices, there’s no other 39-year-olds playing now at quarterback. So, you better do things a little differently,” he explains. “I try to not eat as much sugar, but it’s so hard in our American diet to do that. ... It’s hard to completely avoid. I don’t drink much alcohol.” (He’ll make an exception when he’s hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy.)
“A lot of veggies, a lot of lean meats, nothing that’s going to set me back,” he adds.
Brady the Mentor
Efficiency is key with Brady.
He’s the first to admit he’s not 23 anymore. But when he talks about his age and his training regimen, his experience is clear.
“When you’re 22, you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work. Most people in their career, the more experience, the less mistakes they make,” he says. “For example, in the off-season a lot of players spend a lot of time in the weight room and get big and strong, they work on a lot of things track guys do to get fast.”
Brady is 6-feet-4 and has to bend down pretty far to take a photo with me, he’s also in impeccable shape. But he only focuses on what he needs to do as a quarterback.
“How strong do I need to be? I only need to be as strong as what it takes to withstand the hits if the season,” he says. “Trying to lift the max weight possible, I don’t do those things anymore."
When asked exactly how many throws he does in a day during practice, he smiles and simply says, “I throw ... a lot.”
Tom Terrific pulls a full-on Tony Robbins when he throws out this quote, “Every 23-year-old in the NFL, that’s what they are all doing [getting as big as they can be]. Instead of focusing on your strengths all the time, let’s focus on bettering some of your weaknesses. So you can be a better player.”
As the mission statement for TB12, his sports training company, states, it's all about a "different and more sustainable approach" and when you speak with Brady, it's clear the man knows what he's talking about. (Also, see aforementioned accolades.)
With such a tight schedule, does Brady even relax or goof off?
"During the season, most of my time to unwind is in my car ride home," he says. "When I get home, it’s being with my kids. There’s not much time to unwind, but you know what, it’s because I love what I do. I look forward to the season. I look forward to playing games. It doesn’t ever feel like work."
There are some breaks when the season ends, usually in February for Brady and the Pats.
"I have hobbies," he says. "I like being active. I like to surf a lot, play a little bit of golf. But it' a lot of work and being with my family."
"Maybe a different part of my life, when my kids get a little older, when my career ends, I’ll have a lot more time to do things," he adds.