When Leon Gill came out of coma after two months, he needed to bring back his memory and learn how to walk again.
He turned to Tom Brady for inspiration.
The two have never met, but the Bay Shore hairdresser has admired the New England Patriots quarterback nearly two decades for his resolve and positive attitude.
"He pushed me to be strong," Gill, 40, said of Brady and the role that the athlete played in his long road to recovery.
Time and again, Gill said, Brady has put his head down and proved his critics wrong. In the 2000 NFL draft, he was the 199th pick. The Patriots almost cut him after his rookie season. And now Sunday night, at the end of his 19th year in pro football, he goes for his sixth Super Bowl title.
It was Brady who Gill thought of when he was struggling to come back from a robbery attack in 2007. The assault left him with a blood clot on his brain.
When he finally regained consciousness, he faced months of rehabilitation, and he thought about all the adversity that Brady has overcome — and how he even pushes himself to get even better by setting new goals.
"He believes that the finish line is never the end," Gill said.
Even now, fully recovered, Gill keeps the Brady spirit in his life and sees the Patriot as a good role model for his 12-year-old son, Landen, who plays on a traveling hockey team.
"He doesn't listen to the noise, the chatter, what people say," Gill said of Brady's reaction to his doubters. "He's driven for excellence."
Gill drove home the point to Landen with an online video of Brady telling a boy how he handles "the haters."
For Gill, Brady offered a timeless life lesson. He told the boy: "We love 'em. We love back. We don't hate back."
Gill has his share of Tom Brady jerseys, hats, scarfs and whatnot, but he doesn't want to come across as an over-the-top fan. But he does acknowledge that he couldn't resist buying a gigantic TV to see Brady better.
"I do have one dream — I'd love to cut his hair," Gill said.
If the Patriots win, Gill will be heading up to Boston for the victory parade.
Moreover, another championship would prompt him to do something else positive.
"I'll quit smoking."