It’s a rare feat for an athlete to play a sport past the age of 40. It’s rarer still to keep playing at an elite level. Nolan Ryan did it in the MLB, even pitching a no-hitter at the age of 44. Meanwhile, NHL legend Gordie Howe helped his Hartford Whalers squad reach the playoffs at age 51. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is the most notable over-40 athlete playing today.
Currently 43 years old, Brady has previously voiced his intention to keep playing in the NFL until he turns 45. When the time finally comes to call it quits, it won’t be easy, as Brady himself recently admitted.
The rarity of Brady’s NFL accomplishments
Football is obviously a rough and physical sport, and even the toughest players soon find themselves succumbing to injury. As the league skews ever younger in response, the number of players over the age of 30 has been shrinking in recent years. Of course, there have always been the rare ironmen who manage to stay in the league until their fourth decade.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, over 60 NFL players have played past the age of 40. Some of them, like George Blanda and Jerry Rice, even continued contributing in big ways. Yet arguably none have remained as impactful on the field as Brady. Just look at his quarterback rating, which this year stands at 95.1 — less than two points below his career average.
Meanwhile, Brady’s pass completion rate this season, 64.8%, is almost one point higher than his career average. And Brady is on track to pass for over 4,000 yards again this season, showing that he remains just as efficient at volume as he ever has.
How Brady has kept Father Time at bay
Don’t trick yourself into thinking that Brady’s excellence is simply the result of good genes and luck in the injury department. While those factors are certainly at play, Brady has also expended a tremendous amount of effort keeping himself in game shape, year after year. That begins with an iron-will where a diet is concerned.
Brady has long been known for his stringent dietary efforts, which would prove nearly impossible for most people. Brady scrupulously avoids certain foods — for instance, dairy, white flour, white sugar, and the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes, green peppers, and eggplant.
Brady is also known for his rigorous workouts, which are intense that they may have even worsened Rob Gronkowski’s past injuries. Mental health is also hugely important to Brady, who knows that to remain focused and effective, he must reduce stress and anxiety through mindfulness, meditation, and similar techniques.
How Brady will feel about retirement
No matter how well he takes care of himself, Brady’s time in the NFL is clearly reaching its end. Brady himself has acknowledged that fact and found some peace with it. During a recent appearance on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Brady had this to say:
“I will be happy one day when I retire. I’m gonna be like, ‘I’ve done it. That’s it.’ Like I did my time. I did it.”
Yet Brady was also candid about the new challenges that retirement would present. He even referred to it as being “like a really tough breakup.” The sudden lack of the NFL routine will create a void in Brady’s life, one that may prove hard to fill. But Brady won’t scared to ask for help if necessary. As he told Shepard:
“I’m a big believer in psychology and getting help. I’ve already thought, okay, when it does happen, I’m filling a huge void. I don’t know where that huge void is gonna go. And it’s not gonna be like, hey, I’m gonna be someone who doesn’t want to put the energy that I have into something positive. I’m still gonna wanna do things but at the same time I’m missing something that I really did love.”