During a press conference at last summer’s European Championship, Cristiano Ronaldo removed Coca-Cola bottles from a table and encouraged people to drink water instead. In response, Tom Brady tweeted, “It’s almost as if the veterans know what they’re doing.”
Like Ronaldo, NFL quarterback Brady has defied the expectations for how long an athlete can compete at the highest level. By prioritising a healthy diet and deploying advanced training techniques, Brady remained an elite competitor well into his 40s. Ronaldo returned to the Premier League this season for a second spell with Manchester United and has scored 14 goals so far, double that of the next-best United player. He turns 37 on Saturday.
On average, quarterbacks play in the NFL for less than five years. Brady, who has just announced his retirement aged 44, played for 22 seasons. He leaves American football as the best quarterback of all time, winning seven Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has more Super Bowl wins than any single NFL club, such was his dominance.
Yet Brady entered the NFL in 2000 very much as an afterthought after being selected in the sixth round of the college draft. Remarkably, 198 players were taken before him. The higher your draft position, the more is expected from you in the professional game.
Brady knew he was not the fastest and strongest quarterback. But what he understood early on was that he could beat his competition by being more prepared than anyone else.