Tom Brady grew up idolizing Joe Montana. His affinity for the 49ers as a young child is well-documented.
Brady long since met and passed Montana in the greatest-of-all-time conversation. His Super Bowl comeback against the Atlanta Falcons was the exclamation point in that debate. But Brady had to one-up the 49ers legend one more time by accomplishing something Montana never could: Taking a second franchise to the winner's circle.
Brady left the New England Patriots last offseason and eleven months later was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at age 43 as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback after dominating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
Montana understands Brady's drive and urges the Bucs quarterback to keep taking snaps for as long as he can.
"I totally get it," Montana said on ESPN's "Get Up!" on Monday about Brady's desire to keep going. "It's like a drug. I can't even explain it. I always say that I wish everyone could play one Sunday afternoon out on the field, win or lose, just to feel the adrenaline rushes that go through you, up and down. It's crazy. The only bad thing about it is -- I always say once you've tried it you'll understand. But once you leave, there's no coming back. There's no pick-up games. I can't run from here to my front door. You can go out in basketball, guys can go out mess around have a little fun. You can't do that in football. When you quit, it's cold turkey. You're done and especially at that age, you're not going to go back to it.
"I always say no matter position you're playing, play as long as you can physically handle it. Keep going. Because when you quit you regret it. I quit because of injuries and I was looking forward to wanting to be able to move around and play with my kids. Still to that day, the first two to three years I didn't even want to watch it. I was still mad that I retired. I had another year on my contract. I still could have kept playing but I made that decision and I regretted it."
Brady, who had said he wants to at least play until he's 45, now says he's open to playing longer. Even at 43, Brady still is playing at a near-elite level. He was Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded quarterback this past season and accounted for 54 total touchdowns in the regular season and postseason.
What Brady did, in taking a new team to a Super Bowl title in a pandemic season with a truncated offseason, is beyond impressive.
There should be little doubt that with a full offseason to further mesh with his teammates that Brady and the Bucs will have a good chance to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Brady is long past measuring himself against any player, past or present. Montana hopes the Bay Area kid who grew up wearing his No. 16 keeps doing the improbable for as long as he can.