Patriots legend Tom Brady honored by galaxy of stars at Gillette Stadium


FOXBORO — Only Tom Brady could draw tens of thousands of fans to Gillette Stadium on a mid-June night in the middle of the NBA Finals.

The Patriots honored the greatest player in NFL history with a on-of-a-kind celebration Wednesday night.

Despite plunging ticket prices on the secondary market during the lead-up to the event, nearly every available seat was filled, including hundreds that had been set up on the Gillette game field. A who’s-who of Patriots greats made the trip back to Foxboro for the occasion, with many joining Brady on stage to fete the legendary quarterback.

The ceremony culminated with New England fast-tracking Brady into the Patriots Hall of Fame and retiring his No. 12.

“You guys affected every part of my life,” Brady told the packed crowd, tears in his eyes. “I love you, and I’m very grateful.”

Here were the most memorable moments from an unforgettable night for Patriots fans:

1. Brady Day

The first of many TB12 tributes came hours before the ceremony began. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued a proclamation officially recognizing June 12, 2024 as “Tom Brady Day.”

“Massachusetts celebrates Tom Brady for his profound dedication to the sport of football, making countless memories while inspiring millions across the country,” Gov. Maura Healy wrote. “… (I) urge all residents of the Commonwealth to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance.”

2. The red carpet

Scores of teammates and coaches from every stage of Brady’s 20-year Patriots tenure turned out to celebrate the QB.

From Drew Bledsoe to Malcolm Butler to Tully Banta-Cain. Stephon Gilmore to Jarvis Green to Jonas Gray. Matt Cassel to Marcus Cannon to Mike Compton. Randy Moss to Malcolm Mitchell to Sony Michel. Wes Welker to Ben Watson to LaAdrian Waddle.

Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski were there, of course, as was teammate-turned-Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo.

“I can only express my love and gratitude to you guys for what you’ve meant to me,” Brady said in a red carpet interview with two other ex-teammates, Jason McCourty and Deatrich Wise.

3. Starting ‘em young

The Patriots’ rookies obviously never played with or against Brady, but nearly of them were in attendance, wearing their own personalized jerseys. That included first-round pick Drake Maye, whom the Patriots hope can return them to respectability behind center.

“TB12, ultimate competitor, and that’s what I’m trying to get through to the guys in the locker room,” Mayo said in an on-stage address that opened the proceedings.

One of the few current Patriots who did overlap with Brady — his former backup, Jacoby Brissett — also sported a jersey at the ceremony: Brady’s No. 12.

4. “Allow me to reintroduce myself”

Brady used to take the field to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement.” It was fitting, then, that that was the song of choice to kick off this celebration — with Jay-Z himself traveling to Foxboro to perform it live.

Comedian Bill Burr — a Massachusetts native and diehard Patriots fan — then addressed the crowd before turning the microphone over to the event’s host, NBC broadcaster Mike Tirico.

Tirico joked that he’s “taller and more handsome” than Kevin Hart, who recently hosted the extra-raunchy Brady roast on Netflix.

“Tonight is not a roast,” Tirico said. “Tonight is a toast to the greatest that has been: the Brady era here in Foxboro.”

5. Swapping stories

In the first of several player panels, a quartet of Patriots defensive stars — Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Vince Wilfork and Devin McCourty — retold stories of Brady flashing his competitiveness on the practice field.

“We knew he had the DNA to be one of the greats,” McGinest said.

The next panel of ex-Patriots was a fascinating one: “QB room,” featuring Bledsoe, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel and Josh McDaniels. Bledsoe — one of the stars of the Brady roast — had one of the lines of the night when he joked that Brady was “the worst backup quarterback in the history of the NFL.”

“You never understood that when I got healthy you were supposed to go sit the hell down,” he quipped.

6. All love for Moss

Panel No. 3 was the pass-catchers: Edelman, Gronkowski, Moss and Welker. The crowd gave Moss — whose 23 touchdown catches from Brady in 2007 still stands as an NFL record — received a standing ovation, moving the Hall of Fame wideout to tears.

“I apologize because this is really not my night, it’s 12′s night,” a visibly emotional Moss said. “But I thank you.”

Edelman and Gronkowski received similarly thunderous applause.

“I love you guys,” Edelman said, choking up.

7. Burr zings Allen

Burr returned midway through the show to riff on photos of Brady — sporting some of his occasionally regrettable haircuts — alongside various celebrities. He reserved his best for Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen

“Look at Tom Brady explaining a Cover-2 defense to him!” Burr exclaimed, gesturing to a photo of Brady and Allen golfing. “And he’s like ‘I’ll just run and fumble on the other side of the field.’ ”

8. Game respect game

Brady’s rivals also joined in the fun, with eight of them expressing their appreciation for Brady in a tribute video. Charles Woodson, Ray Lewis, Eli Manning, Jason Taylor, Ed Reed, Michael Strahan, Patrick Mahomes and Richard Sherman all were featured, with Lewis, Manning and Mahomes drawing loud boos from the Gillette crowd.

Brady’s No. 1 foil, Peyton Manning, made a surprise in-person appearance, joining Brady and Tirico on the stage for a 10-minute chat.

Manning shared a story about him and Brady linking up for a throwing session during the 2009 offseason — and swearing to secrecy the high schoolers who served as their receivers.

“We said, ‘If you tell anybody that Tom Brady and I are working out together and that we’re friends, then we’re going to kill all of you,’ ” Manning said.

After that, former stars from the other Boston teams shared their virtual well-wishes: David Ortiz, Patrice Bergeron, Paul Pierce and Taylor Twellman.

“You left no doubt that you were the greatest of all time,” Bergeron said.

Tom Brady, left, with Robert Kraft on the red carpet before Brady was honored by the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Wednesday night. (Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald)
Tom Brady, left, with Robert Kraft on the red carpet before Brady was honored by the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Wednesday night. (Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald)



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