TWO OF A SPE­CIAL KIND

For­mer Pa­triot says drive, am­bi­tion to suc­ceed put Belichick and Brady ahead of NFL curve

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DAN RALPH

You prob­a­bly won’t see a Dy­namic Duo like this again.

They’re pro foot­ball’s dy­namic duo, the crusty head coach and age­less quar­ter­back, chas­ing yet another Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

But for­mer Pa­tri­ots re­ceiver P.K. Sam be­lieves it’s a burn­ing de­sire to con­stantly prove them­selves that sets New Eng­land’s Bill Belichick and Tom Brady above the rest in the NFL.

“It’s a rare case of two peo­ple be­ing on the same page,” Sam, also a for­mer CFL player, said via tele­phone. “They both had a lot to prove . . . and I think they just came together and said, ‘No matter what, we’re go­ing to do this.’

“It’s some­thing I don’t think we’ll see again in our life­time.”

Belichick be­came New Eng­land’s head coach in 2000, five years af­ter be­ing fired by the Cleve­land Browns. Brady, now 39, ar­rived months later as a sixth-round draft pick despite a 20-5 record as a twoyear starter at Michi­gan.

They’ll make a record sev­enth Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ance together Sun­day when New Eng­land faces the At­lanta Fal­cons. A win would be their fifth, the most for a head coach-quar­ter­back tan­dem.

The six-foot-three, 210-pound Sam knows a thing or two about Belichick and Brady. The for­mer Florida State re­ceiver was a 2004 fifth-round pick by New Eng­land and spent two sea­sons there, re­ceiv­ing a Su­per Bowl ring as a 21year-old rookie.

Since ’01, New Eng­land has the NFL’s most reg­u­lar-sea­son (196), play­off (24) and Su­per Bowl wins (four). Belichick and Brady have been a con­stant for a fran­chise for­ever tweak­ing its ros­ter.

Sam, 33, ap­peared in two of New Eng­land’s first five games in 2004 be­fore go­ing on in­jured re­serve with a groin in­jury. Sam said he locked horns with Belichick about the move be­cause it cost him roughly $70,000 US in salary and Sam felt he could’ve re­turned later that sea­son.

Sam went to the re­serve/sus­pended list in Jan­uary 2005 af­ter vi­o­lat­ing team rules. He wasn’t with the Pa­tri­ots when they beat the Philadel­phia Ea­gles 24-21 in Su­per Bowl XXXIX.

Sam also played for Cincin­nati, Oak­land, Mi­ami and Buf­falo as well as Toronto (2008-09, 2011) and Cal­gary (2010) in the CFL. He re­mained up­set about the New Eng­land sus­pen­sion un­til 2012 when while lis­ten­ing to a ra­dio pro­gram he heard some­one say, ‘Un­til you wish suc­cess for peo­ple, you your­self will never re­ceive it.’

That prompted Sam to write an apol­ogy to Belichick, stat­ing he hoped one day they could meet and shake hands. That hap­pened months later at the Su­per Bowl in In­di­anapo­lis where the Pa­tri­ots lost 21-17 to the New York Giants.

Sam wrote Belichick again last week but his let­ter was aimed at Pa­tri­ots play­ers.

“I’m not sure he’ll have time to read it to them,” Sam said. “It’s to the younger guys to just make sure they’re on the same page.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on IR or the prac­tice squad, you’re still part of the team and your ac­tions can help or hurt the team go­ing into Su­per Bowl Sun­day.”

Time has given Sam a new per­spec­tive on Belichick’s tough-love ap­proach.

“It’s dif­fi­cult when you’re young but as an older guy now what he teaches you lasts be­yond foot­ball,” Sam said. “Ac­count­abil­ity and the slo­gan that’s be­come fa­mous and at­tached to his name: ‘Just do your job.’ That’s life.

“You go in and fo­cus on your job . . . keep your head down, give 100 per cent and life works out. He holds you to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard and if you don’t (meet) those stan­dards he gets rid of you. It’s that sim­ple.”

How­ever, Sam feels Belichick has mel­lowed with time.

“Now you see guys danc­ing on the side­lines and in the end zone,” Sam said. “I think you have to change with the times.

Sam also got to know Brady while in New Eng­land, shar­ing a locker be­side the star quar­ter­back.

“He’s a great guy and he’s hu­man, I think peo­ple for­get that,” Sam said. “Some­times when we talked he’d tell me sto­ries about how he missed go­ing to places he used to be able to go to be­fore he started win­ning Su­per Bowls.”

Like Belichick, Sam said Brady en­joys light mo­ments but is all busi­ness on the field.

“I re­mem­ber my first game I wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion dur­ing warmups and ran the wrong route,” Sam said. “He wouldn’t throw to me any­more dur­ing warmups, the backup had to.

“I was sur­prised at the time but he was fo­cused, he was try­ing to win the game.”

Brady has no in­ten­tion of slow­ing down any time soon. He plans to play another six years.

“That just shows he loves to com­pete,” Sam said. “He has enough money, he has all the ac­co­lades but still wants to beat your butt.

“That’s what makes him Tom Brady.”

BOB LEVEY, GETTY IMAGES

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at the Su­per Bowl 51 Open­ing Night at Minute Maid Park Mon­day in Hous­ton.

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