NFL great Tom Brady has announced that he is retiring from the sport aged 44.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has won seven Super Bowls in an astonishing career spanning 22 seasons.
Brady spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, winning six Super Bowl titles, before relocating to Tampa Bay and leading the Bucs to a championship last season.
He has long stated his desire to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children despite still playing at the top of his game.
“I have always believed the sport of football is an 'all-in' proposition — if a 100 per cent competitive commitment isn't there, you won't succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram.
“There is a physical, mental, and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximise my highest potential. And I have tried my very best these past 22 years. There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life.
“This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment any more. I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
The NFL icon leaves the sport after also securing five Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards and three NFL MVP awards.
And while Brady was unable to crown his final season with an eighth Super Bowl, he went out on a high after amassing a career-high 5,316 passing yards.
He also heads the all-time passing rankings, with 84,520 yards, more than 4,000 yards clear of his nearest rival, the now retired Drew Brees.
Brady's longevity is all the more remarkable given the relatively short average career length of an NFL quarterback — around 4.4 years according to a 2019 study.
He entered the NFL to little fanfare, chosen by the New England Patriots with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
Upon arrival in New England, he was ranked way down the Patriots' quarterback pecking order, a gangly freshman with everything to prove.
Yet Brady slowly but surely began thrusting himself into the reckoning, driven by a relentless work ethic and competitive spirit that would become the hallmarks of his career.
Patriots officials would get calls from puzzled security staff in the dead of night to inform them that Brady had arrived at the team's training facility, to practice by himself.
When an injury to Drew Bledsoe in September 2001 saw Brady elevated into the starter's jersey, he seized his chance.
He kept his place for the remainder of the season and led the Patriots to a first ever Super Bowl in February 2002.
That win marked the start of a two-decade reign that would see Brady and coach Bill Belichick's Patriots emerge as the dominant force in the NFL, encompassing eight more trips to the Super Bowl, five of them victorious.
While the personnel on those championship-winning teams evolved over time, the one ever-present remained Brady, who year after year, season after season would confound predictions that his career was in decline.
“Guys come, guys go. Everything changes. Except one thing — Tom,” is how former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann puts it.
There were disappointments and controversies along the way. In 2007, Brady and the Patriots just missed out on becoming only the second team to complete a perfect championship season when they lost the Super Bowl to the Giants.
In 2015, Brady was given a four-game suspension by the NFL over allegedly tampering with the pressure of balls used in a 45-7 AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Typically, Brady responded with another Super Bowl win. In the 2016-2017 season, he orchestrated the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, leading the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit for a 34-28 overtime win.
That coolness under pressure was another Brady calling card." When the game's on the line, he plays his best football,” was how former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner put it. “For me, we're living in the era of the greatest quarterback in the game.”
Another Super Bowl appearance followed in 2018, when he finished with 505 passing yards in a losing effort to the Philadelphia Eagles.
His final Super Bowl win with the Patriots came in 2018, a dour 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.
It made him the oldest Super Bowl winner, at 43 years and 188 days.
That for many seemed like a perfect opportunity for Brady to ride off into the sunset. Instead, he remained in New England for the 2019 season and struggled.
Then in 2020, he shocked the NFL by announcing his decision to leave the Patriots and join the Buccaneers.
It seemed like a move loaded with potential pitfalls — the Bucs had not made the playoffs for over a decade and the coronavirus pandemic limited Brady's ability to integrate with his new teammates. But he turned them into Super Bowl champions.