Growing up watching and playing football at a young age, Tom Brady looked up to Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. Today, despite all of the success he has had as a first ballot Hall of Famer and five-time Super Bowl champion, Brady is reluctant to accept the argument he has ascended past his childhood hero as the greatest quarterback of all time.

“I don’t agree with that and I’ll tell you why,” Brady said in a featured story on ESPN.com. “I know myself as a player. I’m really a product of what I’ve been around, who I was coached by, what I played against, in the era I played in. I really believe if a lot of people were in my shoes they could accomplish the same kinds of things. So I’ve been very fortunate. … I don’t ever want to be the weak link.”

Sure, it’s fair to suggest Brady happened to fall into the perfect system at the absolute best time with one of the top coaches in the game guiding the ship (and some people have suggested Brady’s career is just dumb luck, which is ridiculous). Sometimes the stars align for a player in ways it has for Brady. But you also have to hold up your end of the deal as that player, and nobody would argue Brady hasn’t been able to do that. You do not win five Super Bowl rings and play for a couple more by accident, regardless of what is around you.

Brady has been surrounded by a great team for years, but he is also a big reason why those teams have been great as often as they have been. And part of the reason Brady has become a hero in his own light is because he worked hard to get where he is from a young age.

“I was the backup quarterback on an 0-8 team in my freshman year of high school,” Brady explained. “I got to Michigan, I was seventh [string], and I had a hard time getting to be No. 2, and when I finally got to No. 1 there was someone else [Drew Henson] they wanted to be No. 1. I got to be a sixth-round pick behind a great player, Drew Bledsoe, and then I got an opportunity, and I’m still trying to take advantage of it. Part of who I am now is very much who I was, and that was cultivated growing up.”

We don’t need to bore you with the Brady backstory at this point. The point here is Brady is worthy of being discussed as the greatest quarterback of all time, regardless of what the next few years have in store for him. And his future is very much in the spotlight, as the ESPN features details.

Brady is 39 years old and will be 40 by the time the 2017 NFL season begins. His days are numbered, but Brady is not prepared to determine when his last game will be played. He understands the business of the game, especially after watching his idol Montana shipped off to the Kansas City Chiefs to make room for Steve Young in San Francisco. With Jimmy Garoppolo sitting and waiting on the New England sideline, Brady continues to be motivated by the situation.

“When you’re a member of a team sport, the best guy plays,” Brady explained. “So I always want to make sure I’m the best guy, and I give our team a great chance to win. But if you’re ever not [the best guy], part of being a great teammate is letting the other guy do that, as well. Competition is what has always driven me.”

There is nothing more for Brady to prove in the NFL, yet he continues to be fueled by the competition.

[ESPN]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.