Tom Brady still looks like the youngest guy in the room. Even at age 39.
Stand the Patriots quarterback next to Matt Ryan, his Falcons counterpart in Super Bowl LI, and it looks like Brady is hanging out with his uncle despite the fact Ryan is eight years younger.
How does Brady do it? How does Mr. Perfect constantly look, well, so perfect 17 years into his career in a league that generally pulverizes players’ careers well before they reach 30?
This is something that — along with the rest of us mere mortals — 30-, 40- and 50-something-year-olds who are elite athletes from other sports have marveled at from afar.
This week, in advance of Sunday’s Super Bowl at NRG Stadium, where Brady is trying to win a record fifth career Super Bowl ring, The Post spoke to some elite athletes from sports other than football who managed to continue to excel deep into their respective careers.
NBA star Vince Carter, who turned 40 last week, is still going strong with the Grizzlies, averaging 8.1 points per game off the bench. Carter recently became just the fifth player in NBA history to make 2,000 3-pointers.
Bernard Hopkins broke George Foreman’s record as the oldest boxer in history to win a world title, doing it at age 46. He later broke his own record twice, winning world titles at ages 48 and 49, and he fought for the last time in December 2016 at 51.
Phil Mickelson, at age 46, remains one of the best golfers in the world. The winner of 42 PGA Tour events, including five major championships, barely was edged out at the British Open in July and is as competitive as ever.
Gary Player, 81, won the Masters at age 42 and won his last Champions Tour event at 62.
Conversations with each of these elite athletes produced a common denominator to the successes of every one of them as it relates to what Brady is doing: the love of playing and competing in their sport and the willingness to work harder than they did when they were younger to sustain the success.
“I’m a football fan and I’m pretty much the same age as Brady, so I know what he’s going through and I respect what he’s doing,’’ Carter said. “I’m definitely in awe of him and I’m glad there are others out there doing it at our age. There are not many guys that are willing to put the work in to last this long.
“For me and for anyone who’s lasted as long as we have in our sport, like Bernard Hopkins or Tom Brady, they love their sport and the daily grind that comes with it. Brady, he’s willing to do the work in to stay at that elite level, and now he’s blessing the Super Bowl with his presence again.’’
Mickelson said he played three days of golf with Brady last April, and Brady was so confident not only in the Patriots team around him, but in his and the team’s fitness — based on some new techniques they were using — that he told Mickelson they were going to win the Super Bowl because of those factors.
“Why do you say that?’’ Mickelson asked him.
“Because we’re a superior team and our entire team has changed the way we train to avoid injuries,’’ Brady replied.
Brady predicted to Mickelson the Patriots were going to lead the league in fewest injuries. And indeed, the Patriots, with a new strength-and-conditioning coach, Moses Cabrera, placed an NFL-low five players on injured reserve this season.
Brady, as he got deeper into his career, has become fanatical about his fitness and nutrition — to the point he opened his own TB12 Sports Therapy Center at Patriot Place connected to the team’s home facility.
“The conversation I had with Tom was very motivational for me, because he’s a guy that knows and believes that if he puts in the work he’s able to keep performing at a high level,’’ Mickelson said. “The fact that he’s willing to put in the work is inspirational. So it’s something that I really look up to.’’
Player, who has been an ardent fitness advocate for decades, said he marvels at what Brady has done in a physical sport at his age.
“Brady is one of my heroes in sport, because at 39 years of age in football, what he’s doing is just unheard of,’’ Player said. “When you think that his first Super Bowl was 15 years ago and here he is playing in another one, it’s quite remarkable. In my opinion he’s the greatest quarterback that ever lived.’’
Asked if there is any luck involved for a player like Brady to sustain his dominance for so many years, Player said, “There’s an old saying that luck is the residue of desire. I just returned from the gymnasium. I’m 81 years of age. I did 1,300 sit-ups and crunches, I ran the treadmill at max speed, I pushed 350 pounds with my legs and I did my pushups.
“This is what Tom Brady has done — he’s kept fit. I judge superstars by longevity, and Tom Brady is a perfect example. He’s a role model to young people on fitness and education.’’
Hopkins, who has followed football since his early teens, said he feels like he has a kinship with Brady because of what he has accomplished so late in his career.
“I think his longevity has a lot to do with his style,’’ Hopkins said. “He knows how to pull the trigger at the right time before danger is around him. For me, I had to duck a lot before I took punches or I wouldn’t be on the phone with you right now.”
Hopkins said when an athlete gets to the age Brady is and the conversation begins to center around how old he is more than what he is accomplishing, “It becomes mental warfare, because you’re being asked all the time about your age.
“We’re doing this interview right now about Brady, because it’s about age,’’ Hopkins said. “Mentally, if you think, ‘Why am I here still doing this?’ That can be a negative. You can’t avoid being asked that, but you’ve got to be really skillful and conscious to answer those questions without letting it affect you.’’
Hopkins said Brady being in his seventh Super Bowl at age 39 has “started a lot of conversations in coffee shops, where there are a lot of 40-and-up people cheering for Brady because of his age, and they ask, ‘How did you do it, Bernard?’ ”
That is an question only a chosen few — like Hopkins, Carter, Mickelson, Player and, of course, Brady — can answer.
Article courtesy of New York Post.