- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- He is admired by some and adored by others. He has basked in social spheres ranging from politics in Washington, D.C., to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. He is on the cusp of becoming the youngest quarterback to lead his team to three Super Bowl titles.
But good luck trying to sign Tom Brady to an endorsement deal.
When a company executive calls the offices of Don Yee and Steve Dubin and asks about their client's availability for its next marketing campaign, Yee and Dubin often do their best impression of David Spade in that Capital One commercial. In how many ways can you really say the word "no"?
Tom Brady's representatives have arguably turned down more potential seven-figure deals than anyone short of the Goodwin brothers, whose client is Cleveland Cavaliers phenom LeBron James. And it has paid off.
The two agents are reluctant to discuss specifics; they won't even comment publicly on any future business strategy. But sources say the Patriots quarterback, despite his selectivity, is the second-highest off-the-field earner in the NFL, behind Michael Vick and ahead of Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning and Brian Urlacher. And if Brady wanted to, he could have earned more this year off the field than the $5.5 million the Patriots paid him.
All for a player who was the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.
"The most important thing for me is to be able to win football games and to make sure nothing gets in the way of that," said Brady, who is dating actress Bridget Moynahan. "I think all of the decisions off the field are based with that goal in mind, so if you are going to be too involved with a company or your time commitments, you better make sure you are getting your work done."
The lucky ones to have received Brady's blessing have been Nike, Sirius satellite radio, Hershey's and The Gap. He hasn't re-signed with Dunkin' Donuts or Cadillac, the latter he recently sued for using his photo in advertising after his contract with them had expired. That could lead to an awkward moment if Brady wins his third MVP award and is presented with the requisite Cadillac.
Even if he agrees to sign on the dotted line, though, there is no guarantee he will do anything the company wants. Nike chose Brady to be in its new warriors commercial, which features athletes in masks. His schedule in the middle of the season prevented him from doing the spot, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger served as the backup.
Of course, here's the irony of Brady's selectivity: When his agents approached the company that produces Brady's favorite beverage, the company executives wouldn't entertain talks.
When Brady does sign, it's not just a "read the lines into the camera" deal, either. Every endorsement contract Brady signs includes a clause that stipulates he will have some meeting time with the company's chief executive.
"I like to put as much work as I can into playing football, and I think everything else goes second to that," Brady said. "But when things do come up, yeah, I'm there. Of course you want to be selective about things. You want to choose things that fit your personality, things that you want your teammates to see and hopefully they don't kid you too bad."
A recent Gap ad didn't go over too well in the locker room. Players ribbed him over the pretty-boy association.
"We tried to tell him, 'you do a Gap ad, get a little inside (the company) and get a Big and Tall section in Gap,' " said Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi. "Maybe hook the fat guys up."
Whether it's a privacy issue or an intentional plan, Brady's relative anonymity in the sports endorsement world has added to the Patriots' team-first image, with no stars particularly standing out.
"The whole concept of team is real here, and people do what they have to do to subjugate their egos to what's in the greater good," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
But even if Brady were to start racking up marketing deals, some of his teammates think that wouldn't change who Brady is -- on and off the field.
"If he had 25 commercials, it wouldn't matter," said Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch. "Tom would be the same guy."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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