Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching—yes, we pay attention to these things, partially because it’s a difficult topic to avoid and partially because this year the Giants are playing the Patriots, or New York is playing Tom Brady’s team! To get in the spirit of things and prove that, although the Interview offices are located in New York, we are in no way biased, we decided to revisit this October 2004 interview between Matthew McConaughey and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In this interview, accompanied by an 11-page Bruce Webber-shot spread (we’ve got our priorities straighetened out), McConaughey questions Brady about the “mental toughness” necessary to succeed in the NFL. There are also several photos of Brady with former girfriend and baby-momma, actress Bridget Moynahan… awkward.
NB: The fact that February 1st is also the date that Texas seceded from the Union in 1861, and McConaughey is a famous Texan, is but a coincidence.
TOM BRADY interviewed by Matthew McConaugheyWere he not the star quarterback of football’s best team, Tom Brady might have been coming soon to a theater near you.
Tom Brady is football’s matinee idol, the golden boy of the gridiron. As quarterback for the New England Patriots, he has managed to turn one of the NFL’s perennial losers into the class of the league. Now entering his fifth season with the team, Brady has crossed over from mere athlete to superstar, proving himself as comfortable walking down the red carpet with actress girlfriend Bridget Moynahan as he is driving his team to the promised land (this year he led his team to its second-ever Super Bowl win). Here, actor and football aficionado Matthew McConaughey accomplishes what no defense has yet been able to: getting into the head of the unflappable Mr. Brady.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: It’s getting to be about that time. The season’s about to start.
TOM BRADY: I know, man. I’m ready to roll. I don’t know what to do with all this free time.
MCCONAUGHEY: One thing I’ve noticed recently is that a well-rounded team will beat one that’s stacked with superstars who don’t necessarily have the team mentality.
BRADY: It didn’t used to be like that. With football you can have up to 28 guys you consider starters, and if they can pick up the slack when some aren’t playing so well, you don’t have to turn those two-game losing streaks into six-game losing streaks.
MCCONAUGHEY: Does mental toughness come into play?
BRADY: I’m fortunate to play for a coach [Bill Belichick] who I think is the best in the NFL. The way he communicates with his players gives us a great competitive advantage. Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness. A lot of times I find that people who are blessed with the most talent don’t ever develop that attitude, and the ones who aren’t blessed in that way are the most competitive and have the biggest heart.
MCCONAUGHEY: So, some guys can push themselves to be as great as they can be, while other players may have more physical talent, but don’t ever push themselves to be “great?”
BRADY: Right. Maybe it’s because it’s so natural for the talented ones. You know, when you’re the fastest kid in fourth grade and you play the most, you don’t have to work so hard. You go through high school and college the same way: never listening to your coaches because you’re the best. But when you get to the pros, all that stops because everybody there has talent.
MCCONAUGHEY: It seems like there’s no comparison in terms of the leap in talent from college to pro.
BRADY: No question. And a lot of that comes from the pressures you feel as an adult. Mentally, the only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities. Everybody struggles in different ways.
MCCONAUGHEY: How much are you playing to win versus playing not to lose?
BRADY: I think that at the start of a game, you’re always playing to win, and then maybe if you’re ahead late in the game, you start playing not to lose. The true competitors, though, are the ones who always play to win. I’d like to think that that is my team’s approach.
MCCONAUGHEY: Describe what’s happening when Tom Brady’s at his best.
BRADY: I can see the things before they happen, and if you know what’s going to happen, boy, you can really slow the action down for yourself.
MCCONAUGHEY: And if you’re not at your best?
BRADY: I think a lot of that is about confidence. There are times when you throw an interception and you’re beating yourself up. Then there are times when I’m not feeling good because maybe I got off to a slow start or didn’t build my confidence.
MCCONAUGHEY: What’s the dirtiest thing that’s ever happened on the bottom of the pile?
BRADY: [laughs] Aw, man, I tell ya, I’ve had just about everything punched. I’ve had things grabbed that just shouldn’t be grabbed.
BRADY: It hurts, too. You know, I’m 6 foot 5, 220 pounds, and I’m the smallest guy out there.
MCCONAUGHEY: I know from my dad who played defensive end for the Green Bay Packers in ’53, and from other friends who’ve played some ball, that at the NFL level, a lot of what separates many of the players is physical toughness and an ability to play while injured.
BRADY: It sure is. After the first day of practice, there’s not one guy who’s playing at 100 percent or who feels great. Sometimes, getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth is the hardest part of the day—it just hurts. Some people will say, “You know what? I can’t show up and practice today,” while others will say, “This is how I’m going to feel, and the only way that’s going to improve is if I work it out.” I’ve found that guys who play through the pain are the ones who are most ready to go on Sunday. That’s mental toughness.