03 February 2008

On Drew Henson

We lived in Brighton, Michigan for the briefest time, time enough to redecorate our home in its beautiful wooded setting next to a small pond, time enough to buy a pool table for the little room in the basement, time enough to put a salt lick out for the deer, time enough to learn the stupidity of not raking leaves when it snows and snows and snows due to the lake effect. Brighton was a small town north of Ann Arbor, and we loved the normalcy of life there. We had a butcher and baker, the Saturday morning breakfast place, a pizza place, a couple of great golf courses, a working farm for our first toddler. It remains the favorite place I've lived.

At the local high school, another transient family was turning out one of the greatest high school athletes of a generation. Drew Henson was a throw-back, the kid we all grew up with who excelled at any and every sport. He averaged over 20 points a game in basketball his senior year, which he squeezed in between being a Parade All-American as a quarterback (a season after being a Parade All-American as a punter) and baseball (where he hit 70 home runs over his career, then a prep boy record). Had he decided to focus on baseball rather than negotiating a $2mil signing bonus with the Yankees as part of a $4.5mil contract, maybe we would have never heard of Tom Brady again.

Brady patiently moved up from 7th on the depth chart at Michigan behind Brian Griese to the starter his junior year. Yet, here came All-Everything, Drew Henson. Again and again, Henson was given every opportunity to jump over Brady, to ascend to Wolverine glory. Brady fought through this with a real sense of urgency, knowing that his time was fleeting and fickle. He's truly never lost that sense of urgency.

The quarterback, as a species, are the cockiest pretty boys in school. We forgive him his transgressions, whether they be personal affronts to the minions, their own demons, or simply showing the world how wonderful they are. Brady has played like every play could be his last, every day of his career. There is no good reason that he has a chance to win his fourth Super Bowl today.

I'm sure there are folks who love Brady. I've never been one of those people, probably for no good reason like most of us. Yet in the midst of this numbing spectacle that is Super Bowl Sunday, if we take a step back for a second and strip every scrap of football knowledge and data and loyalty and misinformation that we have in our being, we realize what is before us. A young man with a steadfastness to understand what he is supposed to do, one who has never stopped working (dare I say even as hard as the poster child of hard work for a QB, Mr. Manning), who has a desperation that never leads to recklessness.

Really, until this year we rarely heard of the greatness of this man. Anyone proclaiming him on par with Manning, Elway, Marino, Favre, (name as many as you like) would normally receive a rolling of the eyes, assuming that the proclaimer was some nutjob homer from Vermont. This season has brought our doubting of his core passing abilities into question itself as he's produced the greatest season any quarterback has ever had.

I don't care to argue whether he's the best QB even in the league right now. Tom Brady may simply be the greatest winner that we have ever seen at the position. Today, in this place Santa avoids because it's too cold, today I'll pull for the Giants while watching one of the most special competitors I've ever seen.


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