You can't beat Tom Brady.
That's not true in a literal sense, but Brady has won far more than he's lost in his 20 years as the top quarterback for the New England Patriots. He's arguably the best quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Now, a day after his team won its opening game over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 33 to 3, Brady gave yet another indication of the reason why he's so successful.
It really comes down to one word.
Quick background, in case you don't follow the NFL. The new season just began, and the biggest storyline has been about All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who was traded by the Steelers to the Oakland Raiders. After several months of controversy, Brown asked the Raiders to release him; they did, and he was immediately signed by the Patriots. The story took a serious and dramatic turn a few days later, on Tuesday night, when Brown was accused of sexual assault, accusations he denies.
I'm not going to get too deeply into all the off-the-field drama, but these are obviously serious allegations. And to be clear, it was Brady's comments about Brown before the sexual assault allegations surfaced that are relevant. Hours after he met with his new teammate for the first time, Brady was asked by an interviewer about how he'd keep Brown from becoming a potential "disruption," and if he might be someone who wasn't able to "conform to the culture."
To his credit, Brady dismissed all of it. Instead, he kept coming back to one word:
Antonio, meeting him today, I really enjoy being around him. He's a very smart football player who knows how to play the game. The only thing that I know ... is to go out there and work at it.
So I'm not buying into any hype or potential. I'm into work. He's into work. And our entire offense is into doing what's in the best interests of the team.
The word, of course, is "work."
Look, Brady is 42 years old. He's the oldest player in the league (except for a couple of placekickers, but c'mon, it's not the same thing).
He's got six Super Bowl rings, he's spent his entire career with the same team, and whether fans love him or hate him, he knows what it takes to be successful.
It's not about promise or hype. It's not even just about talent. It's about work.
Just last month, Ben Court of Men's Health did a long profile on Brady, following him through his unusual preseason workout -- the reason, Brady says, that he's still able to compete at a high level in his 20th season.
Last February, after Brady led the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl victory, I eavesdropped on his conversations and heard the love that he professed for his teammates and opponents -- even the Patriots' owner, Robert Kraft.
But without doing the work, there's no opportunity for any of that.
And when you believe something that deeply -- and it works for you -- you find yourself saying it over and over.