"It's a very tough football program," he said. "I think our head coach, Lloyd Carr, really demanded the best out of us every day in practice -- very much along the lines of what coach Belichick does. That taught me about competition and what it means to be a leader."
He learned well: Brady's career record is 119-36, including the playoffs.
The league has matched up the lowly Lions with a marquee QB for their annual showcase game on Thanksgiving, as usual in the hopes of holding viewers for a game that often is lopsided. Detroit has lost a franchise-high six straight games on the holiday, by an average of 23.2 points, and eight of nine in its showcase game.
New England (8-2) shares NFL's best record, and Detroit's mark is better than only the one-win Carolina Panthers.
"We still believe we've got the pieces to be a good team, and at times we're playing really well," Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "But it's a bottom-line business, and our record isn't good. It's time to start winning, and beating a good team at home would be big for this locker room and the perception of this team.
"The thing we feel good about, in a way, is that we haven't been outclassed or overmatched by anybody in the league. It's just a matter of winning."
Brady's path to being one of the best winners in sports began on the bench at Michigan.
"Tommy had to work for everything he had," said Florida Gators quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who tutored Brady as a student and graduate assistant. "But you always knew he was going to be a winner because his intangibles are off the charts."
Brady barely played as an underclassmen, backing up Brian Griese on the 1997 national championship team. As a senior, he had to compete with Drew Henson for playing time. That perhaps led to him being a sixth-round pick, drafted 199th overall -- behind four teammates.
"He was hoping to play sooner than he did, then he had to prove himself again and again," said Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus, a teammate of Brady's at Michigan. "He has talked about playing with a chip on his shoulder for not being drafted until the later rounds. He just wasn't going to be stopped because he just has a natural ability to stay poised. Anybody in a huddle with him can tell that right away."
Carr hasn't been in a huddle with Brady, but he has looked into his eyes enough to see something special. The last time Carr did it, he knew New England's upcoming opponents were in trouble.
The former Michigan coach went to Cleveland earlier this month to watch Brady play the Browns with one of his former teammates and best friends, Aaron Shea.
"We talked a little bit before the game and only for a minute after the game because he was not happy," Carr recalled. "After seeing the look he had in his eye, I told Aaron, `Watch what this team does going forward.'"
If Brady can lift New England to another championship, his fourth would tie Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most by a QB in league history.
Detroit linebacker Julian Peterson, who pulled off a rare feat against Brady by holding off his comeback attempt at Michigan State in 1999, said the Lions are determined to turn around the season.
"This is like a playoff game with us, because I doubt we'll make the playoffs this year," Peterson said. "If we can beat a great team like the Patriots, this would be a steppingstone for us."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press