HOUSTON — Tom Brady hugged the trophy high and tight against his body, ensuring that this Super Bowl LI souvenir would not leave his sight.
“I’m taking this home,” the Patriots quarterback said with a smile Monday as he walked off the stage cradling the Most Valuable Player award.
A night after Brady pulled off the unthinkable, leading New England back from a 25-point deficit to a 34-28 overtime victory over the Falcons and his record fifth Super Bowl title, he still was without his stolen game-worn jersey. But the missing memorabilia didn’t dampen his spirits, nor could it mute the satisfaction of a thrilling victory and a comeback for the ages.
The elephant in the room — the residual resentment between the Patriots’ organization and commissioner Roger Goodell, who handed down Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship Game two years ago — was largely ignored by all parties involved.
“It’s a great honor for us, and me personally, to have both of these guys here this morning,” Goodell said, referring to Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
While Brady acknowledged that he and his teammates faced “a lot of adversities” this season, he nonetheless smiled during his photo op with Goodell and shook the commissioner’s hand after exiting the stage.
“It’s an honor to be here and have the commissioner present us with the trophy,” said Brady, a four-time Super Bowl MVP. “It certainly means a lot, and my kids will be happy to see that trophy. They always ask about it, and I get to bring them one home.”
On this day, on this stage, there was far too much for Brady to celebrate and even more to be grateful for. He capped a difficult season, both personally and professionally, in dramatic fashion. Perhaps the sweetest memory of all from Sunday night’s epic victory was the fact that his mother, Galynn, was at NRG Stadium.
“She’s been through a lot. Way harder than what I went through last night,” Brady said of his ailing mom, who, according to team owner Robert Kraft, has had chemotherapy and radiation all season. “And my dad’s been there every step of the way.
“She hadn’t been to a game all year. What a hell of a game to be at.”
As of Monday morning, however, the whereabouts of Brady’s Super Bowl jersey still was unknown. “If it shows up on eBay somewhere, someone let me know,” he joked, saying: “I put it in my bag and then I came out and it wasn’t there anymore.
“Those are pretty special ones to keep . . . What can you do? I’ll take the ring, and that’s good enough for me.”
Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement that he has asked the Texas Rangers to assist Houston police in an attempt to find the jersey.
Boston TV station Fox 25 reported that a Patriots equipment manager had “locked up” the jersey for safekeeping. If so, someone in the organization forgot to inform Brady.
But he didn’t harp on the jersey’s unknown location for too long. Instead, he credited his teammates for their resilience and commitment to see the game through to the very end.
“It took a kind of miraculous effort to do it,” he said.
And less than 24 hours after Brady put on a dominant performance for the world to see — 43-for-62 for 466 yards, setting records for completions, attempts and yardage — he said he believed there was someone else more worthy of his MVP honor.
“I think James White deserves it,” Brady said of the young running back, who scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner. “It’d be nice for him. It took a real team effort.”
Tom Brady was at his best Sunday in the fourth quarter and overtime, when he helped the Patriots score the game’s final 25 points: