By Barry Wilner
NEW YORK - Add Most Valuable Player to all the other accolades Tom Brady has been collecting.
The New England Patriots' record-setting quarterback drew all but one vote Saturday in romping to The Associated Press 2007 NFL MVP award in the same manner his team romped through its schedule, going 16-0. On the way to the first unbeaten regular season since Miami went 14-0 in 1972, Brady put on a performance for the ages.
"I have always been a huge football fan and will always have great respect for the history of this game," Brady said. "I am grateful to all of the voters for any consideration I was given. It is a tremendous honor and I am sure it is one that my family will one day look back on with great pride."
The eight-year veteran who already has won three Super Bowls helped the Patriots tear through the record books by throwing for 50 touchdowns. He beat Peyton Manning's league mark by one, and also threw 23 of those TD passes to Randy Moss, which lifted the receiver past Jerry Rice's record of 22.
New England scored 589 points, another record, as was the Patriots' 75 touchdowns. Brady led the NFL with a 117.2 passer rating - no, not another record, but close to Manning's 121.1 in 2004. Only one full-time AFC starter, Jacksonville's David Garrard, had fewer than Brady's eight interceptions. And Brady threw 253 more passes than Garrard.
Brady also was tops with a 68.9 completion percentage, and his 4,806 yards were 383 more than runner-up Drew Brees of New Orleans.
Brady joins a roster of AP MVPs that includes quarterbacks John Unitas, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway and Steve Young - all Hall of Famers.
"I am flattered to join such an esteemed list of players, many of whom I consider the greatest of all time," he said. "I hope that I can set as great of an example for kids around the world as the previous MVPs did for me."
There also was plenty of praise to go around from teammates, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
"To be honest, I'm surprised it took so long for him to get this recognition because he's sort of been our MVP since he stepped on the field in '01, in my mind, and the way he just took over," Kraft said. "He treats everyone in that locker room the same way he treats me or the coaches.
"And the thing that I've found most interesting is if you talk to role players or backups how he talks to them and motivates them. He treats them like they're going to the Pro Bowl, with that kind of respect."
Added Mike Vrabel, who has gone from a role player to a Pro Bowl linebacker over the years:
"He's our MVP. I think we've known that for quite some time. "I think his work ethic day in and day out (is most impressive). We get to practice against him so I think that makes us better. I think it makes us a better defense. He puts a lot of time into it. It's important to him. Going out there every week and then trying to play his absolute best is a priority for him."
Brady is the first Patriot selected NFL MVP. He drew 49 of the 50 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the NFL. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, the only three-time MVP, got the other vote.
"He deserves it," Belichick said. "I have thought for a long time that there is no past or present quarterback I'd rather coach than Tom Brady, and I am more certain of that every year he plays."
Only in one game, a 20-10 win over the Jets, did Brady not throw for a touchdown. He had 12 games with at least three TD passes.
Those are great stats, but they hardly tell the entire story. Brady's leadership skills overshadow just about everything.
"Tom's one of those guys that goes out there and tries to perform and compete every week," center Dan Koppen said. "He gives maximum effort on every play and every game. What he did was outstanding, but I know he wants more than that. That's what you need in your quarterback."