After five Super Bowl wins, a New York Times best-selling book and countless other accolades on and off the field, it's hard to think of Tom Brady as a true underdog these days. However, the Patriots superstar hasn't always been the king of the sports world.
If you can believe it, there was a brief stint when Brady wasn't ready for primetime, riding the bench at the University of Michigan before ending up as a sixth round draft pick for New England in 2000. Of course, he would eventually get his time to shine, taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and leading the team to its first ever Super Bowl win that season. The rest, as they say, is history.
Is Tom Brady the ultimate underdog?
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While you'd think Brady would've lost the chip on his shoulder by now, that may not be the case according to Dave Wedge, co-author of "12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady's Fight for Redemption," which covers the quarterback's journey through the Deflategate saga to a record fifth Super Bowl win. Wedge believes that Brady still has a bit of an underdog mentality, which he uses to fuel the flames of his competitive spirit.
"Tom Brady is an underdog," says Wedge. "He’s not right now because he’s the greatest to ever play the game, but let’s remember where he came from."
"He couldn’t even crack the starting lineup at Michigan. He was a sixth round draft pick, 199th pick overall," he adds. "Everyone’s seen the picture of him standing there in the mirror looking like an out of shape kid. When Tom Brady looks in the mirror today, he doesn’t see that supermodel superstar, he still sees that young, underdog kid. That’s the fire that drives the guy."
For "12," Wedge reteams with his frequent writing partner Casey Sherman. The duo previously penned the Boston Marathon bombing book "Boston Strong," which inspired the Mark Wahlberg-starring film "Patriots Day," as well as "The Ice Bucket Challenge: Pete Frates and the Fight against ALS." In their latest book, Wedge and Sherman examine all the events surrounding Brady's infamous Deflategate controversy and the Patriots' amazing Super Bowl win that followed soon after. "12" features exclusive interviews with Brady and many members of the Patriots organization, including Julian Edelman, Robert Kraft, James White, Malcolm Mitchell and more.
"The biggest thing is, people want to know: Did Tom do it or didn’t he do it?" Wedge says. "The point of this book is that it’s irrelevant. It was a minor equipment violation that was magnified into, literally, a federal court case because of egos on behalf of the NFL. That’s really what happened."
Wedge calls the Deflategate controversy "the theater of the absurd," noting how the NFL gave Brady a harsher suspension than those given to players involved in assault or domestic violence incidents. Despite the seemingly unfair treatment the quarterback received from the league, Wedge believes Brady was inspired by the situation to play even harder on the gridiron.
"[Brady] won’t say this, but if you read our book and anyone knows the guy knows that his competitive spirit burns stronger than ever and his legacy does mean something to him," says Wedge. "The league really tried to destroy his reputation through this process. You saw the results. He tore through the league with reckless abandon and he won the greatest Super Bowl probably ever played."
Considering all the interest around Deflategate as well as the general "palace intrigue" that constantly surround Brady and the Patriots, don't be surprised if you see a movie based on "12" sometime soon as Wedge reveals that the project is "actively" being pitched to studios.
"There’s a lot of interest in the story," says Wedge. "We think we’ll have some big news on it soon."
"A lot of people say, 'Half the country hates Tom Brady,'" he adds. "Yeah, well half the country hated Tonya Harding too. How’d that movie do?"
"12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady's Fight for Redemption" hits shelves July 31.