A lot has been said about quarterback Tom Brady's body of work as a whole. Nine previous Super Bowl appearances, six Lombardi trophies, multiple league MVP awards and he is the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history. And no, that isn't up for debate.
Consider when Brady got into the league in 2000, Marshall Faulk was the league's MVP. Brian Urlacher won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Antoine Winfield Sr., father of Bucs' rookie Antoine Winfield Jr., was in just the second season of his 14-year playing career.
Brady has been playing football for over two decades and he's shown no signs of slowing down as he's begun yet another chapter in Tampa Bay at the ripe age of 43. He is now in uncharted waters, both in the Bay and as a player of his, shall we say, experience?
Brady has done more past the age of 40 than what many others even hope to accomplish in their entire careers.
Since turning 40, Brady leads the NFL in wins with 47, he's won NFL MVP and has played in Super Bowls three of the last four seasons. The last time he did that? Between the ages of 24-27… which is nearly 20 years ago. Brady also played in more Super Bowls in between because, yeah, this will be his 10th championship game.
Only six other quarterbacks have done what Brady has done past the age 40. Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Bob Griese are the only others to play in three Super Bowls in a four-season span. All of them are Hall of Famers.
Should Brady accomplish his goal of that lucky number seven Lombardi, he would become the first athlete across all four major North American sports to win championships for two different teams after going 'over the hill.'
Heck, he'd now have one more championship than the GOAT Michael Jordan.
"Michael is one of my sports idols," said Brady. "I think he's pretty incredible. For me, it's about being a part of a lot of great teams. To have the opportunity to play in this game means a lot to me. It's a lot of commitment and sacrifice by a lot of guys. Obviously, we are one game away from the ultimate goal in this sport. I've been a part of that ultimate goal six other times. They're all different. They've all meant something a little bit different to me. They've all been very unique in their own way. It [would] just be cool to accomplish it this time. I don't compare them to the other times. Those were all magical moments in my life. No one can ever take those away from me. Hopefully we can finish this season strong and win a Super Bowl. That's why we're here, that's why we're playing. It would make for a really magical season for us."
There's that word again: magical. Brady is just the fourth quarterback ever to lead two teams to the Super Bowl and should he win, he will join Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks to lead two separate teams to Super Bowl championships.
Brady may be at the top of the age bracket in the league, but he's still at the top of his game, which is why retirement is understandably not on the quarterback's mind quite yet.
"I think it's going to be hard to walk away whenever I decide to walk away because it's been a huge part of my life for a long time," said Brady. "I love thinking about it. Football, to me, is much more than just a sport. There's the physical element, there's the mental approach – how you're going to get the job done – and there's the emotional part. All of those things I've found ways to evolve at different times so that I could maximize my potential. I think for an individual player like myself, as a quarterback, it's never about what I do, it's really always about what we do. Because so much of it is being on the same page with my teammates – with the receivers, the tight ends, the offensive line, the coaches."
And right now, he's enjoying what experience affords him: the chance to play mentor to those around him.
"I chose team sports for a reason: because I love having teammates," explained Brady. "I love sharing those experiences with those guys and I love seeing those guys reach their potential. I think for an older athlete like myself, so much of the enjoyment comes from me helping others too. That's probably why I'm still doing it. It's not about me, Tom Brady, it's about us, the Bucs, and what we can accomplish. We've just got to go finish the deal. It's been a great year thus far. I've learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about my teammates. But we've got a chance now to go accomplish the ultimate goal and we're four quarters away. It's going to take a great effort. We're playing a great team – another team that I think has a lot of those things and they're doing it the right way and it's going to be a great challenge."
Though Brady is the elder statesman, this season isn't without a ton of firsts for the 43-year-old. In his six prior Super Bowl wins, Brady has never started those journeys in the Wild Card round. He did that with Tampa Bay as he went on to capture his first NFC Championship after earning nine AFC titles.
Speaking of, if Tampa Bay emerges from Sunday's game victorious, Brady would be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with teams in different conferences – when Manning won his Super Bowl championships with two different teams, he did it with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos – both in the AFC.
And because Brady's career has spanned across three decades, he also has the incredibly unique opportunity to become the first NFL player period to win a title in three different decades.
He of course, has a chance to have all of these personal firsts while being part of a team that has already made history as the first to ever play in their home stadium for a Super Bowl in a game that pits the two most recent Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks against each other for the first time, as well.