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October 05. 2012 12:03AM

For Brady and Manning, hard work leads to success

Every ounce of success that quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have achieved stems from their work behind the scenes.

The confetti they have pried out of their jerseys after Super Bowls, the hardware they have earned on award days, the busts they will have to unveil some day in Canton, it all ultimately comes from their on-field performances. But those brightest moments on the biggest stages would have never happened if not for so many hours spent in dark, colorless rooms watching film, or on barren practice fields throwing passes against air to make sure it was done enough times that it becomes muscle memory against live defenses.

Naturally, Brady and Manning would not have tallied four Lombardi Trophies and six MVP awards without possessing talent. If high levels of success were all about work ethic, “Rudy” would have been a boring movie. And if a rocket arm happened to be enough to get it done, everyone would be lining up to be the next JaMarcus Russell.

It takes a combination of both aspects. Brady and Manning, who will meet on Sunday for the 13th time when the Patriots host the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium, have reached this point because they have proven to want it more.

“You can tell, those guys, it's not something that happens overnight, or you can work hard for one year and you've just got it,” Pats cornerback Devin McCourty said. “Those guys consistently put in a lot of work and a lot of extra time each year to perform at a high level. I think they've made that routine for themselves, and they're able to execute that every year, year in and year out.”

Brady has a coaching assistant follow him around with a camera during every practice, so he can return to the film room and scrutinize the mechanics of every single throw. Manning stays late at his team's facility to train his body and continue to rehab his neck injury in order to prolong his career.

The quarterbacks could treat it as a 9-to-5 job, as plenty of players do around the league. But rather than becoming one statistic, such as staying in the NFL for the average 3-year career, Brady has become one of four quarterbacks with at least three Super Bowl rings, and Manning, who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, is the only player in history with four MVP awards.

Success is not accidental, not to this degree, and Brady and Manning know it to be true. It helps that their focus is singular, too.

“I love coming to work every day,” Brady said. “I love the challenge that the weeks bring — the mental challenge, the physical challenge. I love the training. I love being around my teammates. There's just not much else out there other than my family. I think it's like the abyss. There's nothing else. It's the edge of the cliff.”

Said Manning: “Maybe I should keep count (of the hours spent at the team facility) one time. But I feel like I do what any quarterback should have to do in order to get ready to play. It's part of the job, being on top of the cerebral part.”

There is a byproduct of that work ethic. It forces their teammates to emulate them. If a teammate is ready to call it an early day and sees Brady or Manning pouring over extra film or running through an additional meeting, sliding out the back door becomes more difficult.

The results are elevated performances for their respective teams. The Patriots have claimed a winning record every season since Brady has become the starter, and Manning did the same for the final nine seasons of his run with the Colts.

“Preparation, leadership and just (the) way that they hold themselves to a higher standard,” Pats wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said. “In order to be on the same team and compete with those guys, you have to do the same thing, and you have to do the same thing to earn their respect. They naturally elevate the play of the players around them.”

That's true greatness, the kind that very few have ever achieved to such a degree.

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