Long before fleeing the New England winters for the Florida sunshine, Tom Brady knew exactly how it felt when a superstar changed teams.
Brady was a sophomore at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, when his hero Joe Montana bolted the San Francisco 49ers for Kansas City in 1993.
So, Brady certainly appreciates what it must be like for Patriots fans watching him lead the Buccaneers (14-5) out of football’s purgatory into Super Bowl 55 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (16-2) — while his old team picks up the pieces from its first losing season since 2000.
Brady said he cherished his “magical” run in New England, where he put down roots, helped build a dynasty and forged so many relationships that “shaped me into who I am as a person, as a player.”
He said a special place in his heart was reserved for all of New England, which he knew nothing about as a skinny kid coming out of Michigan when the Patriots picked him with the 199th selection of the 2000 draft.
“They called me and said, ‘You’ve been picked by New England,’” Brady recounted. “I was like, ‘That’s amazing! Where is New England?’”
By the time he traded the snowy winters for the sandy beaches, Brady had won six Super Bowls with Bill Belichick and stamped his mark as the greatest quarterback ever.
“It was a great 20 years and at the end of the day, I had an opportunity to become a free agent,” Brady said. “I evaluated different opportunities and just tried to make the best possible decision for myself and my family. I chose Tampa and it’s just been an amazing experience.”
Brady doesn’t really have time to look back, however, not with the likes of Chris Jones, Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark awaiting him next weekend.
Win and he’ll have a seventh NFL title, breaking a tie he shares with three members of Vince Lombardi’s great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s who took four league championships and then the first two Super Bowls. He’d also join hardwood great Oscar Robertson and baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as superstars who won a championship in their first year with a new team.
Robertson was traded in 1970 at age 31 from the Cincinnati Royals to Milwaukee, He teamed with Lew Alcindor, who had not yet changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to win 66 games in the ’70-71 regular season and sweep the Washington Bullets for the team’s only NBA title.
Robinson was 29 and coming off a 33-homer, 113-RBI season in 1965 when the Reds traded him to the Orioles. Robinson had the greatest payback season of all time, winning the AL Triple Crown by hitting .316 with 49 homers and 113 RBIs, then and winning both the American League and World Series MVP honors in Baltimore’s 4-0 sweep of the Dodgers in 19668
The list of those who fell short of a title in their first year with a new team includes Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in football; Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain in basketball; Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in baseball; Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr in hockey.
All of them were younger than Brady (43) at the time they switched teams, and some of them, including Manning, James, Ruth and Bourque, went on to win championships in subsequent seasons.
Brady guided the Bucs to their first playoff appearance in 13 years and won three road games in the playoffs — as many as he won in 20 years in New England — to reach his 10th Super Bowl in 21 NFL seasons.