How is Tom Brady still going? Early Patriots teammates reflect on his longevity

On Sunday in Foxborough, Tom Brady will arrive at Gillette Stadium for his 38th NFL playoff game. He’ll do so at the age of 41 years and 163 days, as the oldest quarterback to ever start in the postseason. And although he is slowing ever so slightly, he’s not stopping anytime soon. He’ll be back next season, and if all goes to plan, “beyond that.”

His sustained excellence is as remarkable as anything else in American professional sports. A 2005 GQ profile of the then-three-time champ opened by imagining him as a U.S. senator on a 2020 vice-presidential shortlist. Instead, he’s still playing the game he loves. And still winning.

So how has Brady done it in a league whose acronym doubles as a warning: Not For Long?

More than a dozen former Pats – including Brady’s first roommates, his first backups, his first offensive coordinator and members of his first meaningful huddle – spoke with Yahoo Sports for a feature on the GOAT’s NFL beginnings. They told stories of an ordinary 22-year-old guy with extraordinary confidence and competitiveness. Of naked laps around condos and golf clubs buried in greens. Of late-night film sessions and early-morning workouts, one of them less than 36 hours after the Super Bowl.

They also reflected on Brady’s longevity – which, when considered alongside their own lives today, is all the more exceptional.

Look back at one of Brady's early Super Bowl wins: 

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Patriots defeat Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII
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Patriots defeat Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII
A Super Bowl banner hangs over on the endzone entrances at Reliant Stadium as final preperations were made for Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas, January 31, 2004. The AFC Champion New England Patriots will face the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers on Sunday February 1, in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium. REUTERS/Mike Segar MS/JDP
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts to a question during media day at Reliant Stadium for Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas January 27, 2004. The game is scheduled for February 1. REUTERS/Shaun Best JLS/GAC
Fire and police vehicles make there way around Houston's Reliant Stadium January 31, 2004, in preparation for Super Bowl XXXVIII. Seventy-thousand people will watch the game in the stadium, and a worldwide television audience of one billion people are expected to tune in as the New England Patriots face the Carolina Panthers February 1 in Super Bowl XXXVIII. REUTERS/Mike Blake MB/SV
The field at Reliant Stadium is seen from overhead just before the start of Super Bowl XXXVIII, featuring the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers, in Houston. February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Richard Carson PP04020005 MR
Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme (R) is pressured by New England Patriots defensive end Jarvis Green (97) during first half action of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Win Mcnamee PJ
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (R) passes under pressure from Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner in second quarter action during Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Marc Serota PJ
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) celebrates a touchdown scored by wide receiver Deion Branch (R) during second quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers in Houston February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Mike Segar MR
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (R) scores his team's first touchdown, on a pass from quarterback Jake Delhomme, in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers, February 1, 2004. New England Patriots cornerback Tyrone Poole dives to tackle at left but to no avail. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine REUTERS GAC
New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch (R) catches a pass for New England's first touchdown while Carolina Panthers' cornerback Ricky Manning (24) watches during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Richard Carson MR/SV
New England Patriots place kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) has his field goal blocked in the first half by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Shane Burton (98) in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine GAC
New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch (R) celebrates scoring New England's first touchdown in front of Carolina Panthers' safety Mike Minter (30) during second quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Richard Carson MR
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. REUTERS/Marc Serota MR/SV
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Receiver Ricky Proehl #81 of the Carolina Panthers catches a 12 yard touchdown pass in front of cornerback Asante Samuel #22 of the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: The New England Patriots defense stop running back Stephen Davis #48 of the Carolina Panthers in the third quarter during Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Running back DeShaun Foster #20 of the Carolina Panthers scores on a 33 yard touchdown run against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) kicks the ball to score the winning field goal in the last seconds of the game against Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston February 1, 2004. New England defeated Carolina 32-29. REUTERS/Richard Carson MR
New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) kicks the ball held by teammate Ken Walter to score the winning field goal in the last seconds of the game against Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston February 1, 2004. New England defeated Carolina 32-29. REUTERS/Mike Segar PP04020005 MR
New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (R) is congratulated by teammates Christian Fauria (TOP) and Ken Walter after Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. The Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in the final seconds of the game. REUTERS/Mike Blake JIR/SV
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs on the field while teammates Bobby Hamilton (91), Tedy Bruschi (54) and David Givens (87) leave the bench in celebration after winning Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina Panthers in Houston February 1, 2004. New England defeated Carolina 32-29 after Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41 yard field goal in the final seconds of the game. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine PP04020005 MR
New England Patriots (from left to right), quarterback and MVP Tom Brady, wide receiver David Givens, and fullback Larry Centers celebrate their 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. Brady was also an MVP in Super Bowl XXXVI. This is the second Super Bowl win for New England in three years. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith PP04020005 GAC
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who injured his arm in the victory, is in tears as the confetti swarms around him after the Patriots victory. New England Patriots face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX on Feb. 1, 2004. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2004 - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, February 1, 2004. Brady was named the MVP as the Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29. REUTERS/Win McNamee GMH/HB
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How Tom Brady has sustained his greatness

Not only has Brady been in the NFL for 6,842 days and counting; outside of 2008, when he tore his ACL in Week 1, he hasn’t missed a single start due to injury. He’s played in over 300 games.

The explanations for the sustained success are plentiful. They begin with his work ethic, which was visible behind the scenes to those who saw Brady early on. With the sacrifices his TB12 regimen requires. With his unforgiving attention to detail, and a drive that has never dissipated.

“The thing that’s the most remarkable, honestly, is just the level of preparation he still is able to put in after all these years,” says Drew Bledsoe, who would know. Bledsoe played 14 NFL seasons, but was unseated by Brady when he suffered a life-threatening injury in his second game after signing a 10-year contract.

“It kinda doesn’t matter what you do in life,” Bledsoe continues. “If you’ve been doing it long enough, there’s a sense of monotony that comes in. But he’s been able to, every year, and every week, and every day, really attack his preparation.”

Center Damien Woody uses that same word to describe his former QB: “Remarkable. You just gotta tip your hat to the way he’s taking care of his body, his mind. And he’s seen everything, so you’re not gonna fool him. And that’s why I think he’s the greatest of all time.”

Brady’s competition for the No. 2 quarterback job heading into 2001, Damon Huard, remembers how he himself felt physically during the latter stages of his career. “Even when I was 34, as a backup, I played in Kansas City at the end, got knocked around a bunch,” Huard says. “It was just so hard for my arm to function right. And to drive the ball the way I wanted to.

“My mind worked better than ever. But at 34, 35, dude, I couldn’t throw it the way I wanted to. To think that he is where he is at [41], I give him so much credit, for just being innovative, the whole TB12, the way he eats, his diet, his workout process. The rage to master his craft that he still has. And to do it at his age. And the sacrifice that he has to put in. It’s just incredible. There’s no one like it.”

Huard mentions the beating he took. Brady and the Patriots appear to be doing a few things in that department to prolong his career. NFL run/pass rates are at all-time lows. But the Pats, per teamrankings.com, ran the ball proportionally more often in 2018 than they had in any other season since 2008 – which Brady missed with the torn ACL.

Brady also took fewer sacks per game in 2018 than in any other campaign since 2009 – when he was coming off the surgery.

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Tom Brady through the years
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Tom Brady through the years
FOXBORO, UNITED STATES: The New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter of their game at Foxboro Stadium 30 September 2001 in Foxboro, MA. AFP PHOTO/John MOTTERN (Photo credit should read JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, UNITED STATES: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts in pain on the bench after being knocked out of the game with a leg injury in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game 27 January, 2002 at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. The winner will face either the St. Louis Rams or the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, UNITED STATES: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (C) takes a hit from Charles Woodson (R) of the Oakland Raiders on a pass attempt in the last two minutes of the game in their AFC playoff 19 January 2002 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 16-13 in overtime. AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL (Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, UNITED STATES: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady shows frustration after failing to make a two point conversion in the 4th quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium 27 October,2002 in Foxboro, MA. AFP PHOTO/JOHN MOTTERN (Photo credit should read JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pitches the ball to a back during first half action of Super Bowl XXXVI 03 February, 2002 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots are playing for the NFL championship. AFP PHOTO/Tom SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES: AFC Champions New England Patriots players (L to R) Ty Law, Troy Brown, Lawyer Milloy, and Tom Brady strike a pose for photographers during the team's photo and interview day 29 January 2002 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The Patriots will take on the NFC Champions St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on 03 February. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Tom Brady received Best Breakthrough Athlete at ESPN's 10th Annual Espy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. Wednesday, July 10, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers 32-29 during Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on before Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - FEBRUARY 1: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to toss the ball to a running back against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. The Patriots defeated the Panthers 32-29. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 9: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the NFL game at Gillette Stadium on September 9, 2004 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tom Brady of The New England Patriots speaks with the media during media day at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on February 1, 2005. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 06: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with the Lombardi trophy after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 23: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Lamar Hunt Trohpy in the AFC championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Steelers 41-27 to advance to the Super Bowl. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
DENVER - OCTOBER 16: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots heads for the bench after a failed offensive drive against the Denver Broncos as the Broncos defeated the Patriots 28-20 at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 16, 2005 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 8: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs off the field after winning the 2005 NFL opening game against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Raiders 30-20. (Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 29: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots points out the defense against the New York Giants on December 29, 2007 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 29: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Richard Seymour #93 after defeating the New York Giants to go undefeated for the season on December 29, 2007 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots stretches before taking on the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is hit as he throws by defensive tackle Barry Cofield #96 and Osi Umenyiora #72 of the New York Giants in the first half during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is hit hard by Michael Strahan #92 of the New York Giants in the second quarter during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots takes the field for the second half of Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks on the field in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 7: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is helped off the field by trainers after he sustained an injury to his left knee in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium September 7, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 18: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots congratulates Wes Welker #83 after Welker ran the ball in for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans on October 18, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. BenJarvis Green-Ellis #42 of the Patriots celebrates the play. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Tom Brady (#12) of the New England Patriots directs the play during the NFL International Series match between New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 25, 2009 in London, England. This is the third occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER - OCTOBER 11: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes against the Denver Broncos during an NFL game at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after an incomplete pass in the second quarter while taking on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots screams during pregame before taking on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out from under center in the first half while taking on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 29: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks to Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants following their preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 29, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints after the game at Gillette Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.The New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 30-27. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 13: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints shakes hands with quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots following the Patriots 30-27 win at Gillette Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 18: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 18, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 15: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 15: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 8: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates the game-winning touchdown with Julian Edelman #11 in the 4th quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a second half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the Patriots 41-7 win at M&T Bank Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19: Tom Brady #12 talks to Shane Vereen #34 of the New England Patriots on a foutrh down in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11: Tom Brady (R) #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Andrew Luck (L) #12 of the Indianapolis Colts after their AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 43 to 22. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs off the field after defeating the Indianapolis Colts in their AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 43 to 22. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots congratulates Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos after the Broncos defeated the Patriots 26 to 16 during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 07: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks offsides the field in the first quarter of play against the Miami Dolphins in a game at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 07: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots stands on the sideline during pregame workouts before his team met the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 26: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warm up before a game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 16: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots signals a first down against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 07: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 7, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up before the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady talks to the media during a press conference to address the under inflation of footballs used in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after throwing an interception against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with team owner Robert Kraft after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 4: Benjamin Brady (L) holds the Lombardi trophy next to his dad, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, on a duck boat during the New England Patriots victory parade on February 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons' Brooks Reed (R) puts pressure on New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady during the second quarter of Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson
New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady reacts after his team defeated the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
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But countless other quarterbacks have captained run-first offenses behind sturdy lines. Few, if any, have been as durable for as long as Brady has. He’s the sixth-oldest to start an NFL game at QB. Assuming he takes the field on opening day next season, he’ll ascend into the top five on that list.

“It’s hard to believe,” says Grant Williams, an offensive tackle on Brady’s first two Pats teams. “It’s just hard to believe. … There’s so many good books out there with sports psychology. I don’t know how you can not have a chapter on him in every one of them. He’s just the epitome of what drives winning and focus.”

Says wide receiver Troy Brown, who played all 15 of his NFL seasons with the Pats: “I love football. And I’ve been around a lot of guys that have played football, and I’ve seen guys just lose the passion for it. I’ve seen guys that were willing to walk away from it. Not because they were afraid of getting hurt, they just didn’t have the passion anymore. … His ability to hold onto that passion for the game … for this long, 19 years, man, and still have the same fire. It’s amazing.”

So how much longer can Brady go? Three more seasons? Four more? Five? “I don’t know if that’s realistic,” Woody says of another half-decade of Brady. “But I will say this: However long Tom wants to play, he’s earned that right to play however long he wants to play. … His body of work speaks for itself. He’s still playing at a high level. So whenever he decides to hang it up, he deserves that call, not someone else.”

Says Huard, summing up the amazement: “I just think of all the things I’ve done since I’ve retired from football. To think that he’s still there, practicing, playing this game, it’s just surreal.”

Tom Brady’s first teammates: Where are they now?

What, exactly, have Brady’s early teammates done since retiring from football?

Every single one interviewed for the feature is in his 40s – just like Brady. Three of the 10 other members of that first huddle are younger than him. Yet while Brady remains a top-10 NFL quarterback, the 10 have been out of the league for a combined 115 years.

Nowadays, they are all over the map – literally and figuratively. The offensive linemen, from right to left, were Williams, Joe Andruzzi, Woody, Mike Compton and Matt Light. The tight end was Jermaine Wiggins. The receivers were Brown, David Patten and Charles Johnson. The lone back was Patrick Pass.

Williams, who retired in 2004, runs a counseling practice in St. Louis. He’s also an offensive line coach at Lindenwood University. Andruzzi, who retired in 2006, beat cancer, then founded the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which has raised more than $16 million to support patients afflicted with the disease. He also works part-time in the business development department at Brewster Ambulance Service in Massachusetts.

Woody, who is two months younger than Brady, has been an NFL analyst at ESPN since 2011. Compton, whose kids are all in their 20s, is the offensive line coach at the University of Virginia at Wise. Light, the last of the 10 to retire in 2012, runs his foundation and various business ventures from Massachusetts.

Among the skill-position players, Wiggins – the only of the 11 who hails from New England (East Boston) – has worked for multiple local radio stations and NESN. Brown now analyzes the Pats for NBC Sports Boston. Patten is a pastor and motivational speaker in Columbia, South Carolina. Pass runs football clinics throughout New England. (Johnson could not be reached for the story.)

Brady’s first backups, meanwhile, both run wineries in Washington state. Bledsoe, who lives in Oregon, jokes that his goal is to go his entire life without working a real job. (Between football and the winery, Doubleback, he’s well on his way.) For Huard, the wine business (Passing Time) is a side gig. He’s the director of community and external relations in the University of Washington’s athletic department, and a special advisor to the AD.

And Brady’s first roommates, David Nugent and Chris Eitzmann, are both out in Middle America. Nugent works for a surgical robotic company called TransEnterix in Memphis. Eitzmann, for years, worked at Putnam Investments in Boston before moving to Nebraska to manage his late father-in-law’s farm.

Then there’s Charlie Weis, Brady’s first NFL OC, who has remained out of coaching since being fired by Kansas in 2014. Weis told Yahoo Sports in December he gets “one or two phone calls” every year “about going back into coaching,” but would only seriously consider returning “if the right situation came along.” While he waits, he talks about football on Sirius Radio and the NFL Network. He follows his son, Charlie Jr., the youngest offensive coordinator in FBS football at Florida Atlantic. And he is involved with Hannah and Friends, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife, Maura, to help children and adults with special needs.

Oh, and Tom Brady. He’s done OK for himself as well.

“I can believe he’s still playing,” Eitzmann says. “But if you had asked me my rookie year who was gonna have a longer career, I would’ve said me – which, obviously, is not the case.”

And Nugent, reflecting on his old roommate: “I’ll be at the gym on the treadmill. I’ll watch some highlights of a game, or see an interview that he’s in, and just think, ‘We used to watch those highlights together in our living room at night; or play Tecmo Bowl together; and just be kids. It’s so neat to see that he’s still living that dream. He’s always loved this game, and he’s still doing it.”

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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