October 22, 2014

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A very Brady season: Pats QB still on top of his game

BEREA — Tom Brady is married to a supermodel, looks like a movie star and frequently appears on the cover of celebrity gossip magazines.

But to football fans, none of those things matter.

To them, Brady is known as one of the elite quarterbacks in NFL history and as a three­time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots. “For me, just knowing I’ll be on the field with Tom Brady, it’s going to be awesome,” Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. “He’s a tremendous quarter­back. There’s a reason why they’ve won three Super Bowls. “You saw the plays he made against Minnesota (last week). You can’t coach that and you can’t teach that. The guy is incredible.”

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On Sunday, Brady will make just his second career appear­ance in Cleveland when New England (6-1) battles the Browns (2-5) at 1 p.m.

In 134 previous pro starts, the University of Michigan product has 103 victories, a passer rating of 93.5 and an NFL-record winning percent­age of .769. He also has thrown for a Patriots-high 32,446 yards.

That’s not too shabby for a player who wasn’t chosen until the sixth round and the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

“Tom is probably one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around,” said Cleveland tight end Benjamin Watson, who spent the last six seasons with Brady in New England. “He wants to win at everything, no matter if it’s practice, if it’s a game, no matter if it’s tiddlywinks or a card game. Tom wants to win, and I think that’s what makes him great.”

Though the 33-year-old Brady is a polished jewel, Browns coach Eric Mangini said the younger version was anything but. Mangini worked as a Patriots assistant coach from 2000-2005 and one of his jobs was practicing against New England’s offense.

He recalls being impressed by Brady’s determination as a rookie, but not so much by his efficiency.

“He didn’t come out of college the guy he is now,” Mangini said. “There was a lot of work that had to be done. “You weren’t sitting there going, ‘Holy cow, this guy is going to be unbelievable,’ when you watched him in opportunity periods.

“But what you did see was this guy has an unbelievable work ethic. Through his ability, combined with hard work, he turned himself into what he is today.”

What Brady is today is a very rich man who recently signed a four-year extension with the Patriots that guarantees him $48.5 million and could end up being worth $72 million.

He also comes home every night to Victoria’s Secret icon Gisele Bundchen and their infant son Benjamin — not to mention the paparazzi that trail their every move on both coasts.

“As you get older, it’s probably a little easier,” Brady said of his non-football life. “When you’re younger and when you’re going through it the first time, I know for me, it was pretty tough. You just worry about what you have to do (on the field) because if you don’t, you’re the one that’s going to be out of a job.”

Fortunately for Brady, he has no worries about being replaced in New England anytime soon. He has completed 65.3 percent of his 225 passes this year for 1,602 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 96.6 rating.

And he’s done it all with his typical aplomb, powering the Patriots to the top of the AFC East Division standings.

“He can kill you a couple of different ways — you can die slowly or you can die quickly,” Mangini said. “In the pocket, he stands about as still as you can get. It almost looks like he’s reading the paper back there, he’s so calm.

“The key thing is to keep avoiding the bullets and make sure you’re able to deliver some blows along the way. We’ve got to make sure (his) answers aren’t all the same.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.