The first thing that came to mind when I met Tom Brady was intimidation.
I'm showing up in 2005 with a guy who just came off his third Super Bowl win. So, it’s a little intimidating walking in the room with Tom Brady for the first time.
I remember our first meeting: He came into the locker room with big smile on his face and said, “Nice to meet you.” And I said, “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Brady.”
I called him “Mr. Brady” like such a sissy. But it’s out of respect. I was just showing him, "Hey look, I’m in awe of you, and I’m just hoping I can learn from you."
I soon found out that he’s one of the best teammates I'd ever have, and that he was willing to help in whatever manner he could to make me a better player.
And I needed the help.
My rookie year in New England was mind-blowing. I remember going into the huddle in 7-on-7 when we started OTAs, and Josh McDaniels would tell me a play. You’d have to regurgitate basically what he just said, and I remember saying the play in the huddle -- at least I got that part of it -- getting to the line of scrimmage, and saying, “Oh my goodness. I don’t remember anything that I just called in the huddle."
That whole first year, you’re just trying to understand the offense and what they’re trying to achieve. And I really watched Tom and tried to emulate him by understanding what was going on in the meetings and taking meticulous notes on what was being asked.
By the second preseason, the light kind of came on for me, and I really started to grasp what we were trying to accomplish, both conceptually and philosophically. I obviously didn't expect Tom to go down less than 15 minutes into the 2008 season, but he helped prepare me for that season -- and supported me every step of the way.
Before games and after games, the first text message I always received was from Tom. He was my biggest supporter, and I loved him for that.
He was also great because he knew the impact he had being in that building. While he was getting knee surgery in California, he let me grow within that building and develop my own leadership role with the team. And I think that helped me in the long run, because I was able to go out and be myself, and the team responded to that.
I fully believe Tom is just as supportive of Jarrett Stidham as he was with me.
Tom has always taken the time, whether it was with veterans like Doug Flutie or Vinny Testaverde or young guys like myself. He’s a tremendous teammate, and he wants what’s best for the team and the organization.
People don’t realize how much time quarterbacks spend in that room together. We see each other every day for six months, and we spend so much time together that you need to have a room that’s open, where you can ask questions and be helpful to one another.
And for him, if you treat your backup quarterbacks well, they’re going to reciprocate that same feeling toward you and have your back to do whatever they can to get you ready to play.
Stidham will have to have a quick learning curve. It’s not like he has any time to waste, because it’s a violent game and he’s the No. 2 guy, and the Patriots have made that very clear. They obviously have confidence in him.
And based on my experience, Tom and the Patriots' organization will have him ready.
Editor's note: Matt will be joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on gamedays as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.
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