New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady signals from the line during the AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005, in Foxboro, Mass.
AP Photo/ Winslow Townson
FOXBORO, Mass. Tom Brady played in his driveway 20 miles south of San Francisco and pretended to be Joe Montana. He even tried to spot the 49ers' quarterback at Super Bowl victory parades.
Today, Brady is often compared to the Hall of Famer and children look up to the New England star the way he did to Montana.
''It's really neat on Halloween when you see those jerseys,'' Brady said Thursday. ''I had a little kid come up to my door with a No. 12 jersey on. It's like, 'Oh, man.' It's just come such a long way.''
From part-time starter at Michigan to sixth-round draft choice to two-time Super Bowl MVP, Brady has made huge strides in a hurry. He's just 27, but is in position to help the Patriots become only the second team to win three Super Bowls in four years.
But he's still behind Montana's four Super Bowl wins and eight Pro Bowl selections. Brady, headed to his second Pro Bowl, admits he's uncomfortable with the comparisons.
''I'm very flattered,'' Brady said. ''I don't think I'm on that level (and) I'm still trying to get better.''
But he's not easily distracted once he sets his goals.
He had a fever last weekend but still played brilliantly in the Patriots' 41-27 over Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game. But he said he never came close to missing the game and downplayed the illness.
''There's a lot of guys who were sick and a lot of guys aren't feeling good and a lot of guys are probably playing with tougher ailments than I was,'' Brady said. ''Guys have been doing that all year.
''Everyone plays with great toughness and never complains. A little flu bug. Like that's a big deal. You know (the attention it got) takes away from what those guys do.''
He wouldn't say how sick he was but said he was feeling better Thursday.
Montana completed 63.2 percent of his passes and is seventh in NFL history in touchdown passes and eighth in yards passing in 13 full seasons. Elbow problems sidelined him for the entire 1991 season and limited him to one game in 1992.
Brady has completed 61.6 percent of his passes in five seasons, including his rookie year when he played just one game, and is 8-0 in the playoffs. Montana was 7-1 in his first eight postseason games before finishing at 16-7.
''Tom is as competitive as Montana,'' said Patriots third-string quarterback Jim Miller, a 10-year veteran. ''I just think Tom's got a great feel for the game. He just has a great feel when to move in the pocket, when a certain guy's going to be open.''
Brady has improved his accuracy and game management since he took the starting job after Drew Bledsoe was hurt in the second game of the 2001 season.
''When he's in the zone, I don't think there's anybody better,'' tight end Christian Fauria said.
The charismatic star has made such an impression that his teammates hear about it at home.
''Troy Brown tells me his little kid says I'm his favorite player,'' Brady said. ''So when you hear stuff like that from your own teammate you get the biggest kick out of it.''
As his achievements pile up in a career that should last many more years, more fans will wear his No. 12 jersey and admire the kid who once tossed a football in a driveway not far from where Montana was becoming an idol.
''Hopefully,'' Fauria said, ''people will be comparing other people to him. Hey, you got that Tom Brady quality. That would be more of a compliment than anything.''
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