He inspired, confounded and dominated peers for 23 years in the NFL, but Tom Brady insists he's leaving for real this time.
Prominent peers and past allies congratulated Brady on his second retirement on Wednesday, including Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
"Tom Brady was the ultimate winner. He entered the NFL with little to no fanfare and leaves as the most successful player in league history," Belichick said in a statement released by the Patriots. "His relentless pursuit of excellence drove him on a daily basis. His work ethic and desire to win were both motivational and inspirational to teammates and coaches alike."
Brady released a short video early Wednesday announcing his latest retirement. At 45, he was set to enter free agency for the second time in March following a reversal of his February 2022 retirement that brought him back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for another season.
"Good morning, guys. I'll get to the point right away," Brady said. "I'm retiring for good. I know the process was a pretty big deal last time. So, when I woke up this morning, I figured I'd just press record and let you guys know first so I won't be long-winded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay and I used mine up last year. I really thank you guys so much to every single one of you for supporting me. My family, my friends, my teammates, my competitors... I can go on forever. There's too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream."
Brady will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2028. Another recent retiree, J.J. Watt of the Arizona Cardinals, is in line for enshrinement in the same class.
"Greatest of All Time. No question, no debate," Watt said. "It's been an honor and a privilege. PS - The newly retired group meets on the golf course every morning at 10am. Drinks are on the new guy, so bring your wallet."
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has claimed the torch from Brady with his third Super Bowl appearance in four seasons. But they were 3-3 in head-to-head matchups, and Brady beat Mahomes and the Chiefs to bring the Buccaneers the franchise's only Lombardi Trophy.
Mahomes, preparing to play in Super Bowl LVII in Arizona next week, replied to Brady on Twitter with three goat -- make that, GOAT -- emojis.
One year ago, Brady's retirement was met with congratulations from all corners of the world. LeBron James to Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter to Alex Rodriguez and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson all joined in wishing the NFL's winningest quarterback farewell.
Former teammates and friends had a good time spinning Brady's re-retirement in their favor, including Julian Edelman's invite for Brady to join him for a new competition.
"You only get one super emotional reaction to the goat retiring, and I used mine up," wrote Edelman, a three-time Super Bowl champion on the Brady-led Patriots. "So I'll just say this. Learning from you as a player, teammate, leader, son, brother, and father has been the experience of a lifetime. Love you buddy. PS. Pickleball partners?"
There was less emotion and fanfare following Brady's second retirement announcement on the day before Groundhog's Day 2023, and Brady is not scheduled for a retirement press conference.
At this time in 2022, Shaquille O'Neal offered what would later look more prophetic than comical with this tweet: "no man get your butt up and do one more year."
Jeter, who rented his spacious mansion in Tampa to Brady and his family upon their Florida arrival, did share a note to Brady on Twitter.
"Congrats @TomBrady on an unbelievable career. It was fun to watch!"
--Field Level Media