In a Hot Read feature posted to ESPN.com, Liz Merrill talks to some of Tom Brady's understudies through the years about what it's like to back up a future Hall of Famer. Here's one excerpt that gives us a window into their world:
It was 2001. The NFL was about to undergo a seismic shift in power, and Tom Brady, all 24 years of him, could sense it. That first season together, Brady and Huard used to play blackjack on road trips. It was a way for the quarterbacks who spent so much time being cerebral and competitive to cut loose. In Brady's second game as a starter that season, his New England Patriots took a 30-10 beating in Miami, a game in which Brady was neither great nor horrible. On the plane ride home, Brady and his new backup got to talking over a game of cards. Actually, Brady did most of the talking.
"You know, Damon," Huard recalled Brady saying, "I've been playing this game my whole life. I've started a couple games now, and it's the same game, man. It's no different. I kid you not, it's not that hard. I'm going to be a great one. I'm going to be one of the best at this game."
Huard thought to himself, "'That's great, Tom. Now deal me some cards.'"
Four months later, they were sitting in a locker room at the Louisiana Superdome, just before Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady turned to Huard and asked him how great it was going to feel in three hours, when they were Super Bowl champs.
And by then, Huard knew what so many other quarterbacks who have come to New England in the past decade have come to accept: He didn't stand a chance.