CANTON, Ohio — Walk through the exhibits of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and one might think Tom Brady already is a member of the exclusive club.
The image of the New England Patriots quarterback is strewn throughout the Hall from the building’s very first exhibit, the Hunt/Casterline football card collection, where Brady’s 2000 SP Authentic rookie card, graded a PSA 10 with crisp corners and impeccable centering, sits among cards of the game’s legends.
Walk further, and you’ll find his Super Bowl XLII jersey, representing his 2007 MVP season, when he threw for 4,806 yards with 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions as the Patriots went 16-0. The Hall requested Brady’s uniform from that season, and he sent all of his gear from the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, perhaps in an attempt to rid himself from the disappointing result. The jersey’s back, featuring Brady’s name, faces the exhibit’s window, not the front emblazoned with the Super Bowl XLII patch.
Other items representing Brady: The coin used prior to kickoff in Super Bowl XXXVI, kicking off the Patriots’ dynasty, his 421st touchdown ball, which moved him into third behind Dan Marino, his jersey worn while throwing his 400th touchdown, two of his signed Super Bowl MVP footballs and his jersey from Super Bowl XXXVI. The Hall might as well carve out his bust, put it on display and write “TBD” on its display.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, like an NFL scout or general manager, must recognize talent early in an NFL player’s career. Brady made it easy by winning a Super Bowl in just his second NFL season, so the Hall’s archives are full of Brady items, including his draft card, when he was selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. The Hall works with players and teams to receive these items. The Patriots have been cooperative with donating items despite having their own hall of fame.
Brady, in fact, is the most well-represented active player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He used to be neck-and-neck with Peyton Manning for the honor before the former Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts quarterback retired. On the rise: Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Pick up three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and the Hall will take notice.
That Brady is so well-represented is further proof of his importance to the game. He’s a shoo-in to be inducted five years after he retires and would have entered even if he had hung up his cleats five years ago when he was 34 years old. Brady played concurrently with 35 current Hall of Famers, and he has one former teammate — linebacker Junior Seau — and several former rivals, including Marvin Harrison, Michael Strahan, Tony Dungy and Bill Polian, already in the Hall of Fame.
Brady’s career began at the Hall of Fame Game on July 31, 2000 against the San Francisco 49ers, when, with oversized shoulder pads and a shaved head, he went 3 of 4 for 28 yards with two kneel downs in his first-ever NFL action, just 14 weeks after he was drafted. He hasn’t been back since, according to Pro Football Hall of Fame director Saleem Choudhry. Brady’s next trip back very well could come five years after he retires. When that will be is to be determined, but based on his performance Sunday, when he still looked in the prime of his career, it could be a while.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images