Tom Brady took over Drew Bledsoe's role as starting quarterback for the Patriots.

Tom Brady is now widely regarded as the greatest NFL player of all time with seven Super Bowl victories. But at the start of his career, no one would have predicted he would go on to reach such great heights.

The quarterback from Michigan University was famously recruited by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft with the 199th pick to provide back up to established star Drew Bledsoe.

Watch the 10-part Tom Brady doco series “Man in the Arena” on ESPN with Kayo. New episodes every Tuesday. New to Kayo? Start your free trial today.

A new documentary series, Man in the Arena, which chronicles the story behind each of Brady’s 10 Super Bowl appearances, sheds light on several sliding doors moments that accelerated Brady’s path to stardom.

In the first episode, which follows the Patriots’ run to the Super Bowl in the 2001 season, Bledsoe revealed he didn’t think much of Brady when he was first drafted and never imagined he would soon take over his job.

Bledsoe, who had led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1997 and was in the prime of his career, had just signed a mammoth 10-year AUD$142m contract with New England, becoming the first NFL player to have a $100m million deal.

“Those years from ‘96 to probably 2001-2002, that’s probably when I was at the peak of my ability,’’ Bledsoe said in Man in the Arena.

“I really didn’t pay much attention to the draft in general,” he added, recalling his first impressions of Brady.

Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe in early years at the Patriots.Source: Twitter

“Once Tommy got in there, he was a guy I immediately liked. I figured he was probably going to be a guy that was going to be in the league for a long time, but probably as a backup.

“He’s just this skinny little twerp out of Michigan. I didn’t perceive him as a threat.”

But New England’s season was thrown on its head in just the second game of the season when Bledsoe was crunched in a tackle and injured badly, causing him to bleed internally.

The first-choice quarterback was sidelined for over a month, meaning Brady was called upon to take over while he recovered.

“Drew obviously was the franchise quarterback and one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around,” Brady said.

“I thought I just gotta fill in and do my job. Because certainly I didn’t think I was going to take over and be the quarterback of the Patriots.

“There was very little expectation I had. People didn’t even know who I was and it was really about just playing football.”

While Brady did an admirable job of holding down the fort and helping the Patriots cobble together some wins, everyone expected Bledsoe to take his spot back once he was fully fit.

“It didn’t occur to be that not having my job there when I got back was a possibility for probably like four or five weeks,” Bledsoe said.

“At that point it sort of dawned on me, ‘Geez maybe that seat’s not going to be warm when I get back’.”

Tom Brady took over Drew Bledsoe’s role as starting quarterback.Source: FOX SPORTS

However, coach Bill Belichick stunned the NFL and the Patriots players when he announced he would be sticking with Brady the starting quarterback, leaving Bledsoe on the bench.

Linebacker Willie McGinest said the team was surprised Belichick opted for Brady over the experienced Bledsoe.

“At that time he’s just Tom Brady,” he said.

“Back-up, second or third string quarterback. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do as the back up. He’s holding it down until Drew gets back.

“This is telling us our $100 million man, who is 100 per cent healthy, who is our franchise guy, he is no longer the starting quarterback.

“It is now this sixth-round kid out of Michigan, who has been holding things together for I don’t know how many weeks. We’re going forward with him.

“I know in everybody’s mind it was like, What the f*** just happened?”

The season reached a crescendo when Brady started the AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers but was overwhelmed by the occasion and injured his ankle in the first half.

Bledsoe took his place for the rest of the game and played out of his skin to steer the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Many pundits expected Bledsoe to be rewarded by being named starting quarterback for the Super Bowl.

“I couldn’t help but think that Drew won his job back,” McGinest said.

Brady got the gig as starting quarterback for the Super Bowl.Source: FOX SPORTS
Drew Bledsoe was left on the sidelines.Source: FOX SPORTS

But Belichick had other ideas and instead gave the honour to Brady, who had been at the helm of the offence for the majority of the season.

In the end the choice paid off, as New England defied all odds to pull off an 20-17 upset win over the highly-fancied St Louis Rams to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time.

Bledsoe confessed it was a bittersweet feeling watching Brady succeed in his place on the biggest stage of all.

“I remember being excited for our guys, but at the same time kind of internally kind of disheartened,” he said.

“Like, man, I battled through a lot of stuff to get to this point and now that we’ve arrived here the other guy got to play.

“With that team, it was truly, truly bittersweet and with Tom it was bittersweet.

“Love the guy but at the same time that’s my job that he’s got and that’s my team that he’s leading.”

The Patriots’ 2001 Super Bowl win was bittersweet for Bledsoe.Source: FOX SPORTS

Despite the difficult situation, Bledsoe always put the team first and got on well with Brady.

“If Tom was an a**hole, it would have been really, really hard to that,” he said.

“But he’s not.”

Brady said he and Bledsoe had a lot of mutual respect for each other and he appreciated his senior teammate never let the competition between the pair affect their relationship.

“When you’re the leader of the team like Drew was, he never made it about him and he never created any distractions that made it more difficult for me,” he said.

“I never looked at it like it was me against Drew. He and I personally, we never had an issue. “I’m sure it was much harder on me than it was on him because I was the one playing.

“When Drew got hurt, no one would have wanted that, no one would have hoped for that. “What I respect so much about him is he never let any of those emotions negatively impact me in any way. I love Drew and I respected Drew for everything he had done.

“When I look at what Drew went through, I look at someone who is very unselfish. I think that lesson is embedded in me.”

The first two episodes of Man in the Arena, covering Tom Brady’s Super Bowl triumphs in 2001 and 2003, are available to stream now on Kayo, with the eight remaining episodes to be released weekly at 8pm (AEDT) on Tuesdays.

Soruce: https://www.foxsports.com.au/nfl/skinny-little-twerp-how-tom-brady-stole-142m-nfl-stars-glory/news-story/c2a11287021ab44fa8968e790d9171ed

By Malvi

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