There are plenty of reasons to call Tom Brady the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) at quarterback in the NFL: his seven Super Bowl wins (no one else has more than five) and 10 Super Bowl appearances are the most in NFL history, as are his career passing yards (84,520 yards, more than 4,000 ahead of Drew Brees at No. 2) and touchdowns (624; only three others have more than 500).
But consider this one, as the former Michigan QB turned 45 on Wednesday: Assuming Brady takes his first snap of the 2022 NFL season in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' opener against the Cowboys on Sept. 11, he will be the only player in league history to start a game at quarterback at 45 or older. (George Blanda attempted 11 passes for the Oakland Raiders in a backup role on his 45th birthday, and had a few pass attempts all the way until he was 48 while serving as the Raiders' place kicker and backup punter.)
But back to Brady: His records are possible because of his longevity, so, as he turns 45, let's put into perspective just how long he's been doing this.
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Just one current NFL starting quarterback — Aaron Rodgers — was active when Brady celebrated his 30th birthday. Brady has been in the league longer than the red challenge flag — and the entire Houston Texans franchise (established 2002).
If he's still playing in mid-January 2023 — a distinct possibility considering the Bucs' returning talent — he will have spent more of his life as an NFL player than not. Feeling old yet? Just wait.
Fathers and sons
And then there's the generations. Brady began his career at Michigan in 1995 as teammates with senior offensive lineman Jon Runyan.
Nearly three decades later — 26 years, actually — Brady took the field with another Jon Runyan from Michigan: Jon Runyan Jr., an offensive guard for the Green Bay Packers and former All-Big Ten lineman, was on the sidelines when Brady took a knee on Jan. 24, 2021, to end the the 2021 NFC title game and send his Bucs to the Super Bowl.
On the Tampa Bay roster, Antoine Winfield Jr. has had three interceptions over the past two season. His father, Antoine Winfield Sr., picked off Brady on Nov. 11, 2001 — and that was after Brady and Winfield faced off multiple times on opposite sides of the annual Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.
And then there's Tampa Bay defensive end Logan Hall, the Bucs' second-round pick in 2022; he was born April 22, 2000 — three days after Brady was taken in the sixth round by the New England Patriots at No. 199 overall. In all, there are 104 active NFL players born since Brady became a Patriot — in other words, 104 players who have never known a day when Tom Brady was not an NFL quarterback (other than, perhaps, those few weeks this offseason when he temporarily retired).
Maize and blue, then and now
Brady's alma mater, Michigan, has expanded by nearly a third again in Brady's lifetime, going from 33,801 students in 1977 to 44,718 in 2021.
Just 108 days after the future Michigan Man was born in San Mateo, California, Michigan beat Ohio State, 14-6, in Ann Arbor to earn a split of the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California (roughly 370 miles southeast of Brady's birthplace). Fast forward 16,187 days from Brady's birth, and the Wolverines again beat the Buckeyes (42-27 this time) in Ann Arbor to earn the outright Big Ten East Division title.
Michigan won or shared 13 Big Ten titles from Brady's birth to his NFL entrance. Since his escalation to the NFL, however, they have just three: outright titles in 2003 and 2021 and a shared one (with Iowa) in 2004.
Brady had another career option besides football: He was selected in the 18th round of the MLB draft in 1995 out of high school by the Montreal Expos. Then again, it's probably a good thing he stuck with football: The Expos moved from Montreal to Washington D.C. in 2005 and still needed 14 more years to win the franchise's first World Series, topping the Houston Astros in seven games. By then, Brady had already won six Super Bowls with the Patriots, made 13 Pro Bowls and three All Pro first-teams.
Pop culture and the economy
On Brady's birthday, Radio Shack introduced the TRS-80 personal computer — featuring 4K of RAM, 4K of ROM, a keyboard, a black-and-white screen and a tape-cassette drive – for $599. (Your iPhone is laughing at this right now.) Here's what else was going on in the world that week:.
Top movie: "Star Wars" — Episode IV, of course — was was tops at the box office for the fourth straight week, and seventh overall, making $2,102,935 that week en route to grossing $307,263,857.
Top song: Andy Gibb (brother Maurice, Barry and Robin in the Bee Gees) had his song, "I Just Want To Be Your Everything," top the Billboard Top 100 on both July 30 and Aug. 6, 1977.
Top TV show: "Laverne & Shirley," a spin-off of "Happy Days" featuring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams as the title characters working in a brewery in Milwaukee — we'll assume they were Wisconsin Badgers fans — was the year's top show, though the 1977 TV season had yet to begin.
President: Jimmy Carter, a Democrat from Georgia, was in his seventh month in the Oval Office.
Gas: Filling up your tank cost 62 cents a gallon on average.
Eggs: You could pick up a dozen eggs for 82 cents on average.
Still at the top
It's not just that Brady has played seemingly forever, it's that he's still seemingly somehow near the top of the league.
He led the NFL in total touchdowns (45) in 2021. He has thrown more touchdowns since he turned 40 (168) than Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman (165) and Bart Starr (152) did in their entire careers.
Brady also has 184 yards rushing and six yards receiving since turning 40 — both rank second all-time among 40-year-olds, behind only Doug Flutie and Jerry Rice, respectively. (He could catch Flutie, who is at 212 yards rushing, this season; Rice might take a few more seasons, with 2,509 yards receiving after 40.)
Once Brady retires, he already has a 10-year-deal with Fox worth $375 million to enter the broadcast booth. But if he opted If Brady were to become an NFL head coach today, he'd be older than 13 current coaches (but not the Lions' Dan Campbell, who was born on April 15, 1976).
And finally, there's the titles: He has as many seasons in which he has lifted the Lombardi Trophy (again, seven) than he does seasons in which he has failed to reach the conference title game (and that includes 2008, in which he played only the season opener before tearing his ACL).
Contact Tony Garcia at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Happy 45th birthday, Tom Brady! Here's just what that birthday means