How Tom Brady’s Stolen Super Bowl Jersey Led To The Recovery Of Multiple Pieces Of NFL History

Tom Brady on field during Super Bowl LI

Getty Image

Tom Brady is more comfortable in a Super Bowl than most people are in their own home, and the man who played in The Big Game ten times while racking up six rings has plenty of stories to tell. However, none of them are weirder than the wild saga involving multiple jerseys that were stolen from him.

The fact that Brady is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history means pieces of memorabilia associated with the G.O.A.T. have a tendency to sell for some truly wild prices.

As a result, it’s only natural that a game-worn jersey from one of his Super Bowl appearances would be an incredibly sought-after item—especially when he was rocking it in the contest where the Patriots managed to pull off one of the most dramatic comebacks in history while ensuring Falcons fans will have to deal with an uncontrollable eye twitch every time they hear “28-3.”

Now, you might think NFL teams would keep a very close eye on items like that in the wake of the game, but that didn’t end up being the case in 2017 thanks to the heist that sparked an international criminal investigation and led to the recovery of a couple of other pilfered items.

The case of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jersey had a wild ending

Tom Brady with his jersey

Getty Image

Brady had already helped the Patriots bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Foxborough on four occasions by the time they headed to Houston to face off against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, but it seemed very unlikely New England was going to secure another one after Atlanta pulled out to a seemingly insurmountable lead with around two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

However, Brady was able to orchestrate one of the many comebacks that defined his legendary career, and after James White gave New England the win with a touchdown in overtime, the celebration was officially on.

Brady eventually replaced his jersey with the commemorative shirts handed out to the winning squad, and while he stashed his uniform in the locker room, he eventually realized it had gone missing at some point during the postgame festivities.

The QB didn’t seem particularly concerned about the missing jersey while riding high on the win, but there was still a pretty frantic search for the missing item (which was valued at $500,000). The lieutenant governor of The Lone Star State dispatched the Texas Rangers to look into the case, and things eventually reached a point where the FBI got involved.

It took more than a month, but after examining surveillance videos, the authorities were able to trace the theft to Martin Ortega, a Mexico City resident and La Prensa employee who’d gotten a press pass to cover Super Bowl LI while working as the director of the newspaper.

The investigation not only led to the recovery of the jersey in question but another Brady jersey no one had even realized had gone missing after Super Bowl XLIX as well as the helmet Von Miller wore when the Broncos topped the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Ortega (who described the theft as “an impulse from an uncontrolled fan”) resigned from the newspaper before it had the chance to fire him, and while he was seemingly in possession of around $1 million worth of Super Bowl merchandise, he somehow managed to avoid any serious punishment after agreeing to return the items.

While Mexican and American authorities had a pretty solid case, Brady wasn’t interested in pressing criminal charges (he’d previously stated “I’ll take the ring and that’s good enough for me”), which meant the only serious repercussions Ortega faced was the hit to his professional reputation.

I don’t know how someone could get caught red-handed by the FBI with a collection of valuable stolen items and just sort of get away with it, but I guess it’s kind of an appropriate ending for one of the stranger crimes I’ve ever encountered.