"I think James White deserves it," Brady said Monday morning at the traditional Super Bowl MVP news conference.
White, a third-year running back from Wisconsin, set Super Bowl records with 14 receptions and 20 points scored in Sunday's dramatic 34-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He rushed for the Patriots' final two touchdowns, had a two-point conversion and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass as well. The three touchdowns tied a Super Bowl record.
Brady, weary-eyed from just a few hours of sleep, compared White to his 9-year-old son, Jack.
"He just does everything right, and you can never get mad at him," he joked. "Even when he doesn't make the play, he feels worse about it than you do. He's just the best teammate, an incredible player and has been that way since he really assumed that big role when Dion [Lewis] got hurt [in November 2015]. I'm so proud of everything he's accomplished. I've seen him grow up as a rookie, to working his tail off and becoming a big factor in all these games."
White, whose 110 receiving yards in Super Bowl LI was a record for a running back, fills the "passing back" role in the offense. That role has traditionally been a big part of the team's plans, with players such as Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Lewis.
"They're tough matchups; not only can they run, and not only can they catch, but they pass-protect too, so they bring a lot of toughness," Brady said, praising running backs coach Ivan Fears for his work before turning his attention back to White: "It was a great performance by him when we needed it most on the biggest stage, and he really came through for us."
At the news conference, Brady was introduced by commissioner Roger Goodell, who called it a "great honor" for the league and him personally to have Brady and coach Bill Belichick on hand.
Given the recent history between Goodell and Brady with the NFL's Deflategate penalties, some wondered if there would be any notable interactions between them. After Goodell called Brady onto the stage, they took a photo together in front of the Lombardi Trophy and the Pete Rozelle Trophy awarded to the MVP before Brady answered questions from reporters.
Judge Richard Berman, who ruled against the NFL in Deflategate, told The Associated Press in an email that the Patriots showed with their Super Bowl victory "never to quit, everything is possible, and the importance of teamwork.''
When Brady concluded the media question-and-answer session, he grasped the MVP trophy, said "I'm taking this home!" and walked off the stage toward Goodell.
The two shook hands before Brady departed.