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Central Minnesota is 'special' place for QB Tom Brady...a place he used to milk cows

Kenley Johnson had a chance to wear Tom Brady's Super Bowl 36 ring. Submitted photo1 / 3
The Johnson family Kenley (left), Benton, Tom Brady, Paul and his wife Kelly pose in this undated photo. Submitted photo2 / 3
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Outside of cute puppies, the thundering hooves of the Clydesdales and the refreshing taste of a number of cold beverages, Super Bowl viewers will undoubtedly focus on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Feb. 4.

Love him or hate him, Brady is likely the biggest name in professional football. He's the only player to win five Super Bowls for the same team. He has four Super Bowl MVP awards, more than anyone. He has led his team to more division titles (15) than any other quarterback in NFL history.

But some folks around the small town of Browerville, Minn. just call him Tommy.

To them he's the energetic little boy that used to visit his grandparents on their dairy farm near Clarissa, Minn. and even lent a hand milking cows.

Brady spoke recently on WEEI radio that he's looking forward to returning to Minnesota again, recalling his roots, according to ESPN.

"My mom (Galynn) grew up in central Minnesota, a small town called Browerville," Brady explained Monday morning on his weekly interview with the "Kirk and Callahan Show." "My grandparents lived there, and my grandma (Bernice) died of multiple sclerosis quite a few years ago. She was in a nursing home, and my grandpa was a farmer; he was a dairy farmer, had a lot of cows, and he farmed corn."

Almost annually, Brady said his family returned to Minnesota for fishing, ice fishing and just tending to the farm. According to his cousin, Paul "Pickles" Johnson, Brady still returns regularly to this special place in Minnesota to visit with family.

He was here in 2016, not for football, but to mourn the passing of his grandfather, Gordon Johnson, who was 97.

Brady's mother, Galynn, grew up in Browerville before starting a family in California. She and her husband, Tom Brady Sr., still visit too. With the grandparents passed, family members now own the farm. It's a place that family says Tom Brady can go to just be "Tommy."

Brady is making his eighth Super Bowl appearance Sunday Feb. 4. His previous trips were played in New Orleans, Houston (twice), Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Arizona (twice). Brady continued talking to radio hosts about his connection to Minnesota last week, saying this Super Bowl location is special.

"It's just a great place," Brady said on WEEI. "It's really special to go back there. The last time we played in Minnesota (2014 season), I had a lot of people come; a lot of family and extended family. So it will be a lot of great support there in Minnesota too."

One place Brady has visited in Browerville is the man cave of "Pickles" Johnson. Pickles created the cave out of part of his shed that is home to Patriots colors from wall to wall any given Sunday. It's the place where the family has gathered for the last 14 years to watch Patriot games. Pickles said they never miss a game. They even watched in Spanish when on a trip to Mexico.

But Feb. 4 the Patriot fan club will be traveling to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis not knowing if they will have tickets or not.

"We're gonna go down there," Johnson said. "I've been in touch with the Brady family, and hopefully we get tickets to go to the game."

Pickles' daughter, Kenley Johnson, 25, is also crossing her fingers that they get the call that tickets are waiting for them. Pickles said football players only get so many tickets to give out, and since they don't want to beg, they'll be ready to go elsewhere to watch if they have to.

"We'll hook up with him after the game and take part in the after-game activities," Johnson said. Pickles said he not only has been interviewed by various newspapers, but TV stations have been visiting, too. He and his family are even going to be interviewed by New York City's NBC station this week, which will be shown during the Super Bowl pregame show.

"Everytime I see myself on TV I can't believe how old I've gotten," Pickles said laughing.

He remembers he was just 32 when Brady first started playing for the NFL. Before that Brady had a chance to leave high school and go straight into minor league baseball as a pitcher. Pickles remembers playing around on motorcycles with Brady prior to that. Even earlier, Pickles can remember babysitting "Tommy", who is 10 years younger than him.

Kenley Johnson remembers always wanting to sit in his lap and even tossing a football with him before a game when she was still in elementary school. Kenley became consumed with football and all things Patriots after Tommy was drafted. Her friends knew she loved the Patriots and often picked on her about it. She remembers one occasion after the Patriots lost at the Super Bowl, where she could not even face the bullying she was expecting at school.

"I didn't even go to school on Monday," Johnson said. Lucky for her, she has an endless supply of Vikings' failures to remind her friends about.

Despite being deep in Vikings territory, she remains true to the family ties of the Patriots. She said Brady's down-to-earth attitude and determination to be great helped her in sports and in her career to do her best. She has a Bachelor's degree in nutrition and is an officer in the army working to become a physician's assistant.

"He's just like a normal guy," Kenley said. "He doesn't even act like a celebrity. It's like he's one of us. Most of the time we don't even talk about football."

Pickles remembers seeing in young Brady that great determination as a teenager, but never imagined him to be what some would consider the greatest NFL player of all time.

"He was full of energy, but all the kids were, they were all athletic," Pickles said. He said they always joke that the athletic side came from the Johnson side, not the Brady side.

Pickles attributes the success of the Patriots to Brady's leadership abilities.

"He never says a bad thing about anyone," Pickles said. "I don't know of any other athlete that works as hard as he does."

And despite the humble farm life that part of Brady's Minnesota family lives, they say the football superstar and his supermodel wife always treat them with positivity and kindness.

"They treat us the same as we treat them," Pickles said.

Speaking of the supermodel Gisele Bündchen, she has been apparently pushing for Brady to retire. Pickles, however, does not see that coming. In fact, he says that the way Brady treats his body, he could keep playing until age 45.

"He don't eat what most of us eat," he said.

But when the retirement does come, Pickles and his daughter said they'll being seeing more of the Bradys, enjoying some time at their fish fries, staying at their cabin and perhaps even watching a Vikings game.

Super Bowl prediction

Of course the family of Tom Brady looks forward to another Patriots win on Sunday, but Pickles said they want more than that. They want revenge.

While the family does not watch the Vikings much, Pickles said the way that he saw Eagles fans treating Vikings fans at the last game made him hopeful that the Philadelphia Eagles lose in the worst way.

"I like a close game, but after seeing how the Eagles fans treated the Vikings fans, I hope we just absolutely kill them," Pickles said. I hope we absolutely have the biggest win in NFL history."

Michael Johnson

Johnson is a graduate of Verndale Public School. He earned his associate's degree from Central Lakes College with an emphasis in English and natural resources. He earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he graduated cum laude in 2008. While there, he double-majored in English and Print Journalism. He's reported for The Advocate, student newspaper of MSUM; The Barnesville Record Review in Barnesville, Minn.; Clay County Historical Society in Moorhead, Minn.; Gillette News Record in Gillette Wyo.; Underwood News in Underwood, N.D.; and The Leader-News in Washburn, N.D. and the Brainerd Dispatch in Brainerd, Minn. Johnson has worked as a reporter for the Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus since Nov. 2017.

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