Brady's African relief efforts spur dedication already matched on field

by | National NFL Insider

This is the Tom Brady that you think you know. This is the Tom Brady you don't know at all.

He was many thousands of miles away from the New England Patriots' complex, on the continent of Africa, not so long ago. It was a trip that still resonates today, even as Brady's head fills again with thoughts of football. The trip was to Ghana and Uganda -- countries bustling with incredible oil and natural gas resources and unbelievable human misery.

Brady went to Africa for eight days with the One Foundation (previously called DATA), which fights poverty and preventable diseases. He saw so much, and remembers so much, but this scene sticks out the most, and is still with him now. There was a hut-like structure containing about a dozen people -- men, women and children. Eight of them had AIDS. Their sole water source was a three-mile walk from home.

This year is the fifth anniversary of that first trip to Africa and quietly, without anyone knowing, it began to slowly change Brady. He is still the football-driven, maniacal future Hall of Famer who might be the best quarterback in history. The man on the magazine covers. One of the most visible faces in all of sports.

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Yet that trip also led Brady to expand his knowledge about Africa and other impoverished areas. The pursuit of that knowledge and his contributions to stopping some of the senselessness never ceased as he has quietly donated money and time to these causes. Brady won't say exactly what he does, but his sister just got back from Africa after a three-month stay. Brady plans to go back one day as soon as he can.

"It was a life-changing experience that stuck with me and does to this day," Brady told "You never forget it. It's the kind of thing that reshapes how you see, not just the rest of the world, but also this country.

"It makes you appreciate what you have. In America, we think poverty is bad here, and it is -- don't get me wrong. We're having some tough times in this country. But you have no idea how bad things can get until you go to a place like that. It changes everything you think you know."

When Brady was there, among the places he visited were schools and HIV/AIDS clinics. What encouraged Brady was how strong people were in the face of such war, famine and disease. Brady saw hope and what he saw has become a driving force in his own life.

Did that trip make Brady -- always known for his uber-work ethic -- work even harder? "Probably, yes," he said. "It makes you appreciate what you have and you don't want to lose it."

"At the end of the day, we play a game," Brady continued. "It's our job. We don't cure cancer but we can use our jobs to bring attention to places and people that otherwise might not receive that attention."

Could Brady have made that trip before becoming a star?

"I ultimately believe that you have to take care of yourself first before you can help others," he said. "You have to grow and then you can reach out."

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Brady still has another pursuit -- the one with which we're most familiar. So we talked some football -- which makes sense since there is no question the Patriots are again a title threat. That will likely always be the case as long as Brady is running the offense.

 On the Patriots' ability to again reach the Super Bowl: "The foundation has been set here with smart and talented football players. We have that foundation. As long as we have that we feel like we can be competitive. If we lose that, it's different. As long as we keep performing under pressure and not being distracted by things other teams say, we can keep performing well."

 On Patriots owner Robert Kraft saying he is already better than Joe Montana, Brady's boyhood idol: "I love Mr. Kraft and he's one of my great friends. The big thing is I just want to win for him and the Patriots fans." (In other words, Brady wasn't touching that one.)

 On the possibility of replacement refs in the regular season: "Personally, from my standpoint, I've never gone into a game thinking about the officials. That won't change. I'm not going to think about it at all."

As it turns out, you may have thought you knew Tom Brady. But there's a Tom Brady you didn't know at all.


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