Wearing a white t-shirt with a gigantic blue 1 printed on its chest, Michigan quarterback Tom Brady did not know at the time that the 40-yard dash he was about to run would one day turn into the stuff of legends. A comparatively abysmal 5.28 seconds later, the then 22-year old had hurt his already middling draft stock to a point where he would not be picked until the 199th selection a couple of months later.
Brady’s limited abilities to work as a runner in a time when speed was seen as a necessary tool a quarterback needs to possess — think: Steve Young, John Elway, Brett Favre — followed him through the draft process and all the way into his professional career. Both he and the New England Patriots knew about his deficits, however, and adapted accordingly: Brady rarely carried the football outside of the occasional quarterback sneak.
Yet, he still gained his fair amount of rushing yards every single year. In his first season as the Patriots’ starter, he registered 43 yards on the ground. In his second, he rushed for 110 and a touchdown. Little by little, Brady added to his rushing total and after the first 17 years of his career sat on the brink of reaching 1,000 in total: after averaging 56.9 yards per season from 2000 through 2017, he was only 32 yards shy of the milestone.
Of course, gaining 32 yards on the ground is easier said than done — especially considering that Brady regularly loses yardage on quarterback kneel downs to end halves or games. Yesterday was different, though, as he made sure to get back to the line of scrimmage in the middle of the Patriots’ victory formation after the team’s 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings: he did not want to fall below 1,000 yards again.
In the 13th game of his 18th NFL season, after all, the now 41-year old was able to finally (but only figuratively) reach the milestone and become the 36th quarterback in NFL history to gain 1,000 rushing yards in a career. A five-yard scramble late in the first quarter elevated Brady from his previous total of 995 to a full 1,000. The play and its implication were not necessarily cause for celebration, though.
Yes, it helped New England convert a third down (on a drive that ultimately ended with a punt). And, yes, it also led to a hilarious clip prepared by the NFL for the occasion:
Brady himself, however, kept a relatively low profile after the game. “Hopefully I don’t go backwards next week,” he said when asked about his career rushing yardage reaching four-digit territory. His focus — at least on the podium, something that might change once his social media team gets involved — was somewhere else: “It was good to get the win, that’s what I’m most excited about. Happy we won and are 9-3; we got a big one against Miami.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick apparently was on equal levels of excitement after the game. “Yeah, that’s really important to us,” he told reporters. “It’s great.” However, not all members of the organization brushed off the accomplishment as quickly as the quarterback and the coach. Two of Brady’s offensive teammates expressed their happiness about the future Hall of Famer reaching 1,000 career rushing yards.
“It’s pretty cool for him,” running back James White said after the game. “I know it took a while to get there, but still a great accomplishment. I mean, he’s broken all type of records and did all type of things, so definitely happy for him.” In terms of career rushing yardage, White is the current Patriots player closest to Brady: he is 340 yards behind him, sitting at 760 yards at the moment. The 26-year old has played 206 fewer regular season games.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has rushed for 616 yards in 92 career games, also opened up about his quarterback cracking the 1,000 yard barrier. “We’ve been talking about it for like six weeks now and he finally got it,” Patterson said. “I am happy for that guy and he works tremendously hard. You just see the games and the practices, but you don’t see all the hard work that guy puts in each day and night.”
The work Patterson mentioned allowed Brady to reach a point at which 1,000 career rushing yards are no longer a theoretical goal but a reality. And in this sense — 18 years after his famous 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis — Brady’s career has come full circle: once again, people talk about his running abilities. Only this time, they do it in the context of him being the most accomplished player in NFL history.