NFL legend Tom Brady is one of the most successful players in the game today, and still going strong at 40.
He describes wife Gisele Bündchen as "one of the best parts of his life".
Tom Brady’s fans call him the G.O.A.T – that is, the greatest of all time.
But love him or loathe him (and plenty do on both sides), his track record speaks for itself.
Having played for the New England Patriots since he was drafted into the NFL in 2000, Brady has won more professional games than any other starting quarterback in NFL history – that’s 208, to be exact.
Furthermore, he’s the only quarterback to have led his team to five Super Bowl victories. And the American’s latest win at Super Bowl LI, in Texas, this February, landed him his fourth Super Bowl Most Valuable Player title, surpassing the record of his own childhood hero, Joe Montana.
At 40 years old – an age when other athletes are retired or considering it – Brady is playing at his best. And he’s married to one of the world’s most successful supermodels, Brazil’s Gisele Bündchen.
CNN’s Talk Asia sat down with the American football legend in Shanghai, during his first trip to China.
Hi Tom. You are defying your age. What’s the secret?
It’s really a lifestyle, it’s not one thing you can point to. It’s not like: ‘Wow, if you just eat this way, that will happen.’ It’s every decision I make … is centered around how I can be the best possible player I can be. And I really enjoy it … It requires a little bit of discipline but once you make those disciplined choices, they just become part of your life.
Earlier this year, your wife told CBS that you’ve suffered concussions. Why is so difficult for NFL players to discuss violence in the game?
I don’t think it’s difficult to discuss. I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business as to what’s going on with my ankle, or my knees, or my arm, or my head. Those things are personal … Yes, I do play a contact sport, but I also feel like I take more preventative measures than probably anybody in the world. So I really don’t have concerns.
I think I’ve got a great approach to how to take care of my body, it’s worked very well … (I’m) going into my 18th professional season, so you know, it’s really not going to change. I’ve actually gotten better at my physical preparation and every year I feel better on the field.
The “Deflategate scandal” – when your team was accused of deliberately under-inflating balls – earned you a four-game suspension. How did you come back on top?
Well, I think when you’ve done it for 17 years … I’ve had a lot of experiences and I know what’s important and I know what’s not important and tend to use a very positive outlook in order to shape my own emotions and feelings. I use a lot of things for motivation.
So you know, to continue to play takes a lot of internal motivation at my age. It’s not a lot of external things that motivate me … (You need) to have a love for the game and still have the opportunity. To go out there last year and play was great.
You were also a really good baseball player. Why football?
Well, ironically baseball was a lot of strain on my body. I liked to be a catcher, I was in the middle of all the action but I was in a crouching stance all day and my knees would get really sore, and my elbow would get sore from throwing. When I started to play football, I didn’t have to do all those things. So, you know, it was really the pain that I felt from playing high school baseball that was one of the reasons why I fell in love with football.
In 2000, when you were drafted to the NFL in the sixth round, no one picked you to be a star, right?
That was a great opportunity in my life … When you are picked late, not a lot of people expect too much from you. So I was able to, in my first year, work under the radar.
I worked really hard when I didn’t have to play and be in front of people … a lot of young players have that criticism that they face at a young age and, you know, it is hard to overcome.
I didn’t have that, I was able to build and grow and learn and watch. By the time I got my opportunity, I felt like I was in a really good mental place, I had improved physically and maybe caught up a little more.
The New England Patriots is a polarizing team. Why is that?
In the NFL, there’s really no national team. In basketball, at some point, all those guys play on the same national Olympic team. When you see international soccer players, you know, they have their club teams but then they play for their own country, too.
I wish I had a chance to represent our entire country playing against another country but because you don’t in your own country, you have factions that break off. So New Yorkers, they obviously hate our team. Because we’ve had success, a lot of teams don’t like that … It’s a good problem to have.
If they don’t like you, you’re probably doing something right!
You’re in China for the first time as the face of sports apparel brand Under Armour. Is there an opportunity here for American football?
For one reason or another, the NFL hasn’t quite made it here the way it’s made it to other countries outside the United States … Football is a great sport, it’s an incredibly strategic sport, very disciplined. It’s been in America for a long time but to continue the global outreach of the sport is really important as you continue to see it grow.
There is obviously a billion-and-a-half people here that love sports and to show them why football is so great, is a great thing to be able to do. Part of why I am here is to explain that as an ambassador to the game.
You’re married to supermodel Gisele Bündchen. How would you describe your marriage?
Family is everything to me. I had such a great mom and dad growing up – that showed me what a great relationship and marriage is all about … And to find a wife who has the same outlook as I do, I mean, her mom and dad I love so much. They gave their family the same roots, you know.
Gisele grew up with five sisters and they are all very close and I grew up with three sisters and we are all very close. To find a woman who is really a great partner and we have so many of the same beliefs, it’s been, it’s just one of the best parts of my life.
What does life look like after football for Tom Brady?
I haven’t looked too far beyond that, other than football, playing football. I love preparing for it and all those things that I do to prepare, I think I really want to share those things with, you know, a lot of athletes around the world.
I think that’s what my goal is. I feel like really it’s my responsibility … I’ve learned so much, I want to be able to help people not go through the same mistakes that I went through.
(That’d be) a great avenue for me to direct my time and energy into when I’m done playing . But I don’t see me not playing for a long time.
Is another Super Bowl victory in your sights?
I hope so. I mean, that’s why we’re playing – that would be pretty cool. To win it back to back, I know how hard that challenge is. I know we did it once before, it’s hard to do. I mean, you’re the hunted, there are a lot of teams that will be coming after us but that’s okay because we’re coming after them too.
This interview has been edited for brevity and grammar.