I was 5 years old when Tom Brady took over as starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. I grew up watching Brady under center in Foxborough, and believe me when I tell you it was quite a shock to be face to face with him as a reporter in the Gillette Stadium locker room.

I worked for The Boston Globe in college and went on a few assignments covering the Patriots. In my years covering Boston sports, there were only two athletes that made it hard to stay professional. Those two were David Ortiz and Tom Brady. I mean, I spent my entire adolescence rooting for these guys, and now I'm supposed to be an objective observer?

But, as I quickly learned, that's what have to do as journalists.

Still, being in a room with Brady afforded me some insights into his personality, his habits and his mannerisms away from the cameras. Here are three things I learned about the now-seven-time Super Bowl champion from those assignments.

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1. Brady is as unassuming as a backup punter

Everybody in the room knows it when Brady walks in, but nobody acts like it. Compare that to when Ortiz would walk into the locker room at Fenway Park; players would erupt and even reporters would audibly recognize that Big Papi had arrived. Brady, however, doesn't get that fanfare. He walks in, gets a few subdued greetings, and politely acknowledges those who acknowledge him. If you had never seen Brady before — which seems like a virtual impossibility — you would never know the greatest quarterback of all time was standing right there.

2. The team-first stuff is not just an act

If you've ever listened to a Brady interview, he rarely talks about himself. He defers to his teammates, coaches, etc. before acknowledging his individual accomplishments, despite the power they wield. In my experience, Brady does the same even in unrecorded, one-on-one conversations — rarely speaking about himself in a vain way. It's enough to make you wonder whether he really comprehends the magnitude of his individual accomplishments.

3. Brady doesn't want special treatment

Of course, Brady knows he is the quarterback, the most important position in all of North American team sports. Of course, he knows his salary is higher than the lion's share of his teammates as well as his coaches. But he doesn't want to be treated like a superstar. In a football sense, he wants to lift up those around him. The only individual spotlight he welcomes is when he can showcase his company, TB12, and its workout centers, apparel, and lifestyle products. Brady simply wants to put his head down and get to work.

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