NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady has four Super Bowl rings, is a future Hall of Famer and his New England Patriots are off to a 4-0 start, yet he's still quick to mention his 199th rank in the draft more than a decade ago as motivation for excellence.
After the high of winning the Super Bowl, the National Football League tried to suspend him for four games over his role in the deflation of game balls in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady, who denied wrongdoing, successfully appealed in time for the start of the season.
While it certainly provided more fuel for Brady's critics, he remains one of the most popular athletes in the world, thanks to his golden-boy persona (being married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen doesn't hurt).
The quarterback, who recently signed on as a pitchman for Tag Heuer with the motto "Don't Break Under Pressure," says it's the past failures that have fueled his success: "These challenging experiences that have been the best things I've ever had to deal with."
Brady talked to The Associated Press this week about why he doesn't let critics get under his skin, his relationship with his wife and his friendship with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Associated Press: Sunday you're playing the Indianapolis Colts. After all you've been through this entire year, is it vindication to play them?
Brady: I approach every week the same. I think I've always tried to be very professional to how I approach the game, my preparation. Every game is important. We only get 16 of them. We've had a great rivalry with that team. They've got a good team this year, they won three straight, so I'm excited to see what we can do in the game. What more can you ask?
AP: You were almost suspended because of Deflategate. Does that figure in at all?
Brady: It really doesn't. Whether that was the case or not, it's not going to make any difference on Sunday night.
AP: Your relationship with Gisele is always under scrutiny. How to you put all that aside?
Brady: Well, you compartmentalize. You owe that to your teammates. They gotta do the same thing. Everyone is dealing with something. This is life; this is not just a piece of cake. You expect that when your teammates are doing their jobs, so you got to compartmentalize and do your job. I've tried that over a long period of time; it's tried and tested. That's something you take a lot of pride in. You put all the other stuff aside and go out and do your job, and mine is to be the best I can be for my teammates.
AP: At 38, you're playing quarterback in the NFL at a high level. How much longer do you see yourself playing?
Brady: I've got a lot of football left. ... Football is a contact sport and there's a lot that goes into it. But I have committed myself for a long time to doing it, and because I love doing it so much I want to make that commitment.
AP: Were you bothered by (Dallas Cowboys) Greg Hardy's comment (about wanting to see Gisele)?
Brady: No, I've been around for a long time, I've seen it all. He's not the first person that makes comments that don't have anything to do with the game. I put them aside and I go about my business. If you waste your time and energy on things that don't matter in the outcome of the game, then when you get to the game you're not going to give your teammates the best that you have to offer.
AP: As far as your non-endorsement endorsement of Donald Trump, what do you say about that?
Brady: (Laughs.) He's been a long-time friend of mine, so we played a lot of golf over the years. He's invited me many times to some of his great golf resorts. We've had a lot of fun together. We'll see what turns out with him as a politician, but he's certainly a great friend. Nobody supports their friends like Tom Brady or Donald Trump.
This story has been corrected to show the Patriots are off to a 4-0 start, not 5-0 start.
Follow John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci