The rise of Quarterback Tom Brady
Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

But fame could also pose problems. "A lot of things that I used to do for fun just aren't fun anyone," he says, pondering the perils of stardom without a hint of rancor or self-pity. "I used to go out with my friends all the time, to the movies or to the mall or to Boston Common and hang out. Now that's hard to do. One day you realize everything's getting constricted – the walls are caving in. So you think, What can I do to open things up for me?"

What he did – after two years of riding the wave of celebrity – was sit down and make a list. Before the 2003 season even started Brady took out a pad and started jotting down goals for the off-season. He wanted to read more. He wanted to learn to fly a plane. He wanted to take a dance class with his sister. And he wanted to go to Europe.

"I thought, What do I do to challenge myself? To stimulate my mind? I love golf, but that doesn't do it. You can't go to see movies 24 hours a day. What I've learned is that, for me, I have to continue to learn."

While in London, Brady hung out reading in Hyde Park ("Sweet"), visited Warwick Castle, wandered through the British Museum, marveled at the Rosetta Stone ("Sick"). Hopping over to Paris, he met up with Moynahan. The two took in Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre. He experienced that universal feeling one gets while looking at, say, the 'Mona Lisa' and realizing that it looks just like the 'Mona Lisa.' In Venice, he stayed in the celebrated Hotel Cipriani. In Florence, he had the best steak of his life. In Rome, he met Pope John Paul II.

The best part? Nobody cared that back home he was being hailed as the next Joe Montana. One evening in Florence, Brady and Moynahan ended up at a communal table in a trattoria with two other couples, one from Singapore, the other from Belgium. The six had the kind of casual, chatty evening most of us take for granted, but for Brady it was a rare treat. "It was, like, one day after the other," he says. "I would think, Jeez, wasn't that a great day?"

Okay, so Brady sounds a bit like a breathless college junior just back from a backpacking semester abroad. But when he was a college junior at Michigan he was attending grueling practices, preparing to entertain the U of M masses on Saturday afternoons. No shock, then, that he took in Europe with the awareness and intensity of a young man on a mission to grow – every step of the way.

"Over there, they grow up knowing about their history!" he says, keeping the subject off the field. "Americans get caught up in really minute, irrelevant facts and details, but in the grand scheme of things, nobody's really going to care anyway. It's very much a relief. However important you think winning a Super Bowl is, ultimately it's nothing." This thought makes Tom Brady smile.

Crunching the Numbers on the Best Job in America

TYPICAL DAY AT WORK

7:30 am Taping and treatment

8:00 Plan offensive plays for next opponent

8:45–10:30 Practice

10:45–12:30 QB meetings

12:30–1:30 Lunch

1:30–3:15 Offense film review of previous game; watching film of upcoming opponent

3:30–4:15 Meet with media (deflect questions)

4:15–5:15 Team meeting

5:15–5:45 More treatment

6 pm–? Most QBs will stay at the practice facility and watch films or bring tapes home and watch another few hours a day, searching for hidden weaknesses in the defense.