Tom Brady turns 40

AP

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski came up with a pretty good idea for a 40th birthday present for quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday when he said he gets Brady touchdowns because all the quarterback wants is for his receivers to catch the ball.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com came up with another good way to celebrate Brady’s big birthday on Thursday. Reiss spoke to several Brady family members, friends, teammates and coaches to paint a picture of Brady on and off the field. The anecdotes range from a chippy response to razzing about Drew Henson while at Michigan to his willingness to use connections to help teammates score nice watches to his enjoyment of a good prank.

More than anything, though, the stories Reiss collected show the traits that have made Brady one of the best to ever play in the NFL. Early morning arrivals to the weight room, supreme confidence in his abilities and, as former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, a steel trap memory of what’s been successful in past games.

“My favorite story about him has to do with his memory,” O’Brien said. “I don’t remember the exact time of the year, but we were playing Buffalo, I think it was 2009. We’re in a meeting and we’re watching Buffalo’s first- and second-down tape. I’m talking to them about what the Bills’ defensive coordinator was doing, and [Brady] basically knew who the coordinator was because he had faced him earlier in his career, about five to six years prior. So he says to me in this meeting, ‘I remember we ran this play against this scheme called Crunch Stock in 2004.’ I said, ‘You remember that specific play?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I remember it against this specific coverage, which this coordinator loves to play. It was on the right hash, going away from the lighthouse, and we hit Troy Brown for a big gain on the crossing pattern.’ I said, ‘There is no way you remember that play like that!’ He challenged me to pull it up. We have all the games on the computer system, and we find that game and there’s the play: on the right hash, second-and-less-than-5, going away from the lighthouse and he hits Troy Brown on a crossing pattern. Think about all the plays he had between that day and the day we were talking. Apart from his talent and competitiveness, I always tell people that’s what sets him apart. He has an IBM. He remembers it.”

The entire piece is worth a read for a trip back through the years as Brady hits 40 with no sign that he’s slowing down.