When Tom Brady limped off the football field last September after sustaining an injury to his knee, his chances of immediately returning to the game looked bleak. As doctors concluded that the New England Patriots quarterback would be out the rest of the season undergoing surgery and intensive physical therapy, the 31-year-old had one goal in mind: the day he could officially rejoin the team.

Now, back at practice with the Patriots, Tom reveals in the June issue of Sports Illustrated that the unexpected turn of events taught him one of life’s biggest lessons — gratitude — a lesson that he says has bubbled over into fatherhood. Sharing custody of his 21-month-old John ‘Jack’ Edward Thomas with actress Bridget Moynahan, the proud papa explains that the arrangements have him savoring each moment with his son a bit more.

The ever doting dad showed just how far he was willing to go to share a few laughs with Jack — and prove he was feeling up to par — much to the disdain of both his wife Gisele Bündchen and his doctors. Only two days after his surgery, Tom hoisted the toddler up on his shoulders and was toting him around the hospital room. “I wanted to prove I could move around and get ahead of schedule and nothing was going to stop me,” he says. The result? A hematoma in his knee accompanied by a staph infection.

Clearly elated to return to one of his greatest loves in life, Tom admits that he sees no future for himself outside of the game. “I want to play this game I love, be with my wife and son, and enjoy life,” he says.

Source: Sports Illustrated; June Issue

— Anya