TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady had nothing left to prove.
Already considered the GOAT — greatest of all time — Brady finally walked away from the NFL on Wednesday following the most difficult, emotionally draining season in his life.
"I'm retiring. For good," Brady said in a short video he posted on social media.
Brady leaves with seven Super Bowl rings, five Super Bowl MVP awards, numerous other honors and nearly every passing record in league history.
His success on the field is unmatched and his career accomplishments long ago cemented his Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials.
But Brady's legacy stretches beyond the field, his championships and his 89,214 passing yards and 649 touchdowns.
He set a standard for longevity that will be difficult to duplicate. It requires unique dedication to proper training and nutrition, an unfailing commitment to mental preparation and an unquenchable desire to compete.
At age 44, Brady led the NFL with a career-best 5,316 yards passing and tossed 43 TDs. In a subpar season by his standards, 45-year-old Brady still led the NFC with 4,694 yards passing, threw 25 TDs and broke his own NFL record for completions with 490.
There's little doubt Brady could still play another year at a high level despite the way his season ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being dominated by Dallas in the playoffs. Brady still has the arm strength and there was no drop-off in his velocity. He threw a career-high 66 passes against the Cowboys in his last game, including on-target deep balls.
However, Brady knows it's time, especially after briefly retiring last year. His desire to be closer to his children and to spend more time with them after his divorce from supermodel Gisele Bündchen had to be a major factor in his decision.
Now, Brady moves onto the next chapter. He'll stay in football with a lucrative contract to be an analyst on Fox Sports.
His impact on this and other sports carries on through his TB12 method.
Brady's extraordinary ability to excel in his 40s in a physically demanding game will inspire others to try to follow his path. That's been one of Brady's goals. He hopes athletes learn how to better take care of their bodies to allow themselves opportunities to extend their careers.
"I feel like everything I've learned over the course of 23 years in football has and will allow me to continue to help people in different ways," Brady said in September. "The things I've learned have been a huge benefit to me and I realize that there are systems that are broken and you'd like to try to improve that the best way you can by giving people the knowledge that has allowed me to be successful. I think a big part of my future life will be that as well.
"Unfortunately, like everything else, there was a lot of money made in the old system and it's hard because preventive care and preventive maintenance to your body is a challenge because it takes time and energy.
Tom Brady retires from the NFL ... again
"But I think starting young is really important, educating people on what works as opposed to the way things have always been. And I think the way things have always been will always result in basically the same outcomes for people. And I think what I've tried to do is challenge that norm by performing over a long period of time, and I've really done it in a way that's, I'd say, been unique. And I've tried to allow my teammates to learn, as well as tens of thousands of other people that have kind of been educated and adopted a different type of belief system."
One of Brady's most striking characteristics was being relatable to teammates, even younger guys half his age. For a mega-celebrity, Brady was approachable, down-to-earth. He'd walk out of the stadium after games alone with no security or entourage surrounding him, chatting with anyone who came over to him whether it was reporters or stadium employees.
"Just being able to meet him, play alongside him and just pick his brain as a human being outside of sports and things like that was great," rookie running back Rachaad White said after Brady's last game.
Many of Brady's teammates echoed those sentiments.
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