HOUSTON — Tom Brady walked out of the news conference for Super Bowl LI Most Valuable Player on Monday morning with the silver football trophy tucked under his arm.
“I’m keeping this,” he said.
But the Patriots quarterback is not above sharing some of the other perks of the honor. Just as he did two years ago, Brady said he plans on handing over the keys to the new car that comes with being Super Bowl MVP to a young, heretofore unknown teammate who, were it not for Brady’s overwhelming performance, likely would have won the award himself.
“I think James White deserves it,” Brady said. “It’ll be nice for him.”
White, the third-year running back who was inactive as a healthy scratch the last time the Patriots played in a Super Bowl, caught a Super Bowl-record 14 passes for 110 yards, ran for 29 yards on six carries and scored 20 of the Patriots’ 34 points on three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. One of his TDs came on a 2-yard run in overtime that gave the Patriots a 34-28 victory over the Falcons.
Two years ago, Brady gave the car to cornerback Malcolm Butler for his game-sealing interception on the goal line in the final minute against the Seahawks.
Like Butler, White was not a household name before his Super Bowl performance. In fact, he probably was most known for not playing particularly well in the loss to the Broncos in last year’s AFC Championship Game that kept the Patriots out of Super Bowl 50. A second-year player then, he stepped into a larger role that season when Dion Lewis was injured.
“James White is like my oldest son,” Brady said. “He just does everything right and you can never get mad at him. If he doesn’t make the play, he feels worse about it than you do. He’s just the best teammate. He’s an incredible player and he’s been that way since he assumed that role when Dion got hurt last year.”
This season, White caught 60 passes for 551 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season, splitting time with Lewis and LeGarrette Blount at running back. He had only 39 carries for 166 rushing yards.
Brady compared White’s role in the offense to the one occupied over the years by Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and current Giant Shane Ve reen. But it’s his attitude that Brady seemed to admire most.
“I’m so proud of him and everything he’s accomplished,” Brady said. “I’ve seen him grow from a rookie to working his tail off to become a big factor in all these games . . . It’s a great performance by him when we needed it the most on the biggest stage, and he really came through for us.”
James White deserves a new set of wheels after breaking the record for most receptions in a Super Bowl:
No. Player, team SB
14 James White, NE LI
13Demaryius Thomas, Den. XLVIII
11 Shane Vereen, NE XLIX
Wes Welker, NE XLII
Deion Branch, NE XXXIX
Jerry Rice, SF XXIII
Dan Ross, Cin. XVI
10 Hakeem Nicks, Giants XLVI
Joseph Addai, Ind. XLI
Deion Branch, NE XXXVIII
Andre Hastings, Pitt. XXX
Jerry Rice, SF XXIX
Tony Nathan, Mia. XIX