Change in the air

It's true: Tom Brady says he's moving on.

Back when Tom Brady was the 199th player selected overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, he told New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft that he was going to be the best decision Kraft has ever made.

As a sixth round pick at a position that comes at a premium, that statement could have been laughed at. But now, 20 years later, the term “icon” may not even suffice across the 71,991 square miles that make up New England when discussing the legacy that 22 year-old kid envisioned at the time — and has lived up to.

Tuesday morning Brady announced his decision to move on from the Patriots across his verified social media platforms. Later in the afternoon it was reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, among others, that Brady will be signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Brady’s reign in New England was incredible and I’m grateful I was old enough to watch it from day one,” ConVal boys basketball coach Leo Gershgorin said. “I would have liked to have seen him retire in New England, but it’s a business at the end of the day. New England took a chance on him and he returned the favor with six Super Bowl rings. He will be greatly missed.”

Over the course of his time as the face of the franchise, Brady garnered six Super Bowl wins in nine appearances, four Super Bowl MVP awards, 17 AFC East titles, 36 career comebacks and 45 game-winning drives on his resume. It is nearly impossible for one to refute the case that Brady is the greatest of all time.

Following his departure, the Patriots released statements from Bill Belichick, Brady’s head coach since he entered the league, and Kraft.

“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators,” the Patriots coach said in the statement. “Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.”

As fans across the country reacted to Brady’s announced departure, local athletes, coaches and administrators had their own personal reactions.

“As a lifelong Patriots fan, I am saddened by the news. It is the end of a special era for fans and the Patriots organization,” Keene High School Athletic Director Michael Atkins said. “Tom Brady will always be a Patriots player, even if he suits up for another team. I felt this was coming, as signs were pointing to Tom’s departure. We need to remember that pro football is a business.”

On the field, Brady has been exactly that: all business. But the business to him hasn’t always been directly tied to money. Rather, Brady went to measures many have not for the amelioration of the team. Brady forfeited at least $60 million during his long tenure with the Patriots, according to Business Insider.

Off the field, the impact he had on people living in communities across the region has been impeccable during his time spent with the organization.

His charitable work includes time with Best Buddies International, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Entertainment Industry Foundation, KaBOOM! and PeyBack Foundation. Along with other professional athletes, Brady has served as a blueprint for the impact athletes at all age levels can make in their own respective communities.

“I would say that professional athletes like Brady have shown me what it’s like to be a true competitor and make the most out of every opportunity given,” Keene High School three-sport athlete Noah Timmer said. “On top of that, he has also shown that sports can be a platform and a gateway to many community outreach opportunities that we should all take advantage of. We all may not be professional athletes, but we can all still take the time to give back to our communities through sports and get involved in community work.”

While all news has been a whirlwind in recent days in both sports and outside of them due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a profusion of positive memories to reflect upon when it comes to Brady’s 20 seasons.

“Terrible news on top of everything else,” Keene boys ice hockey head coach Chris McIntosh said. “It will be interesting to see a new chapter unfold, hopefully another exciting one. I was most impressed with the sincerity that Coach Belichick used to honor Tom. It was nice to see him articulate the profoundness and impact Tom has had on all sports and athletes over the last two decades. He was and is one of a kind.”

Arguably the greatest moment of Brady’s career was coming back from a 28-3 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI as he captured his fifth championship. Brady’s performance is one all athletes can store in their memories and use when the scoreboard is in the opponents’ favor — to know that no matter how hopeless the moment seems, the most improbable of comebacks can happen.

That game embodied a player: fueled by alternating time between starter and backup at the University of Michigan despite his winning tendencies that included a 10-2 record in the 2000 season; capped off with a Orange Bowl victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide with the Wolverines having trailed by two scores in it; being taken as the seventh quarterback selected in the 2000 NFL draft; and one who didn’t fear losing but instead used the possibility of it to fuel the plays needed to eliminate defeat.

“The guy is an icon, he’s the greatest to ever play the game,” Monadnock football Coach Ryan Avery said. “He went from a nobody to the best quarterback in the NFL. Everybody knows his story. So it’s kind of an inspiration that anybody can do anything.”

Brady is, in fact, an icon, one who spent 20 seasons with a single franchise, unheard of in a league where the average career of a player spans under four years. But his durability and loyalty that accompany his unwavering will to win games, his knack for peak performances in the most dire moments, his relentlessness to give up no matter what the scoreboards read — and much more — could be described more accurately as toeing the scales between fact and fiction.

The legacy that Brady leaves is one dearest to the hearts of all New Englanders. Brady delivered a greatness to football that is unparalleled, on and off the field.

Tom Brady is and always will be New England football.