Emerson students shocked after New England legend hangs up spikes

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

Embed from Getty Images

Most Emerson students, sports fans or not, have spent their lives witnessing what is arguably one of the greatest careers in football history. Now, as the seven-time Super Bowl champion hangs up his helmet, the students who grew up in Tom Brady’s shadow are taking time to reflect and reminisce.

“He’s just an iconic figure in New England sports,” said Cooper Sherman, a junior sports communication major. “When you become a Patriots fan, Brady has to be a big part of that.”

Brady’s announcement, long-anticipated but still sensational, sparked a unique controversy when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback confirmed the reports of his retirement on Tuesday. Coming off an MVP caliber season leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, the sports world was thrown for a loop.

“The first reaction was shock,” Sherman said. “While you’d think the retirement had to happen sometime, it was a bit of a surprise. After this season, you would think maybe he’d want to go out in a better way.”

Get This Week's News

All the big stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning 

In his last game, Brady’s Buccaneers lost to the Los Angeles Rams in dramatic fashion, after coming back from a 24 point deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The next few days saw extensive media speculation about the possibility of his retirement—something that first-year sports communication major Nick Antonakas said was disrespectful to Brady’s legacy.

“It was kind of ridiculous that journalists were hopping on [the unconfirmed reports,]” he said. “I mean, obviously it’s their job, but he was planning to announce it. It’s just wishy-washy.”

Though many fans felt that the longtime Patriot could have continued to play—something suggested by his own comments—sophomore business of creative enterprises major Kyle Beebe said that he had already achieved everything he needed to in the NFL.

“He could have kept playing, but it’s completely up to him at this point,” Beebe said. “He doesn’t really owe anything to anyone because of all that he’s done for the sport.”

Brady’s announcement also drew controversy for neglecting to mention the Patriots organization—with which he spent twenty seasons and six Super Bowls—and its fans. For some New England fans, the omission was hard to swallow.

“That was the one thing that, I don’t want to say rubbed me the wrong way, but I was just like ‘why not?’” Beebe said. “I understand mentioning the Bucs because that is the team that he’s on. But I thought if he was looking back on his legacy, he would have to address [the Patriots].”

His history with New England may have not been addressed in his final statements—though he would later acknowledge the fanbase on his social media—but few contend that Brady did anything short of changing the landscape of New England sports.

With the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, New England found gold in a player who was never expected to surmount anything more than to sit behind former quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

“A big part of Tom Brady’s legacy is that this guy was a six-round pick,” Sherman said. “You would never think that a player drafted where he was would come out to be such a fantastic player in the NFL.”

His career created countless memories for Patriots fans, who had never seen a Super Bowl victory before Brady’s astounding 2001 campaign.

“Some of the happiest moments as a kid for me were because of the teams that he led to the Super Bowl,” Beebe said. “I just respect the amount of hard work he had; the dedication is what comes to mind when I first think of him.”

Antonakas said Brady was one of the reasons he started to watch football which led to his own career aspirations in sports journalism.

“Tom Brady is not only the leader, but he’s also part of the reason why I got so interested in football,” Antonakas said. “I want to pursue a career in football and one day hopefully cover the Patriots in some sort of fashion.”

Sherman said Brady’s ability to win was one of his best qualities.

“Greatest of all time,” Sherman said. “He was a great passer. He always seemed very poised when he was out there on the field. He was a great competitor and he was a winner. He knew how to win in all circumstances.”

One of Brady’s most notable victories came in Super Bowl LI, after being down 28-3 against the Atlanta Falcons. The star quarterback stunned the world with an astonishing comeback—making for one of the best memories for many New England fans.

“That was just amazing to see,” Sherman said. “How it was so improbable, and it was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.”

By 2020, though, the relationship between Brady and Patriots’ management had become frayed. His eventual move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was polarizing—especially for his supporters—but Sherman said he was ultimately content.

“I didn’t have any bad feelings towards him,” Sherman said. “He gave us 20 great years and New England won six Super Bowls, so I think Pats fans should all be grateful for that.”

“He has done more than enough for the franchise,” said Beebe. “I obviously wanted him to be a Patriot forever, but the more I thought about it, I understood.”

Antonakes said it took him over a year to come to terms with Brady’s move.

“I actually remember the day very clearly,” Antonakas said. “It was the beginning of quarantine. It was pretty cold out and I remember waking up in the morning and seeing that Tom Brady signed to the Bucs—but I still had this hope in the back of my mind that he was going to retire, like ‘he won’t betray us and play somewhere else.’ But he did, and it was just a huge shock to the heart.”

As a Buc, Brady won a Super Bowl, effectively proving his ability, at age 43, to perform without the Belichick system in place in New England.

“Not only was Tom Brady succeeding at a high level, but he was doing it at [43] years old,” Antonakas said. “The fact that he’s moving the way he’s moving and throwing the ball that far at that age and succeeding is just ridiculous.”