FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Robert Kraft reflected Thursday on the upcoming 25th anniversary of his purchasing the New England Patriots and the role quarterback Tom Brady has played in the franchise's success.
"Definitely the greatest player of all time -- not just quarterback in my opinion," Kraft said in an interview with ESPN. "Because he's such a leader in the locker room. For someone double the age of some of the players to be able to lead like that, and connect like that, and have the work ethic that he has, and at the same time so pleasant to be around -- I'm really the luckiest guy in the world."
Kraft purchased the Patriots on Jan. 21, 1994, and since that time the Patriots have won 31 playoff games, 18 AFC East titles, nine AFC championships and five Super Bowl championships.
The 31 playoff wins rank Kraft third among NFL ownership groups, but it is the rapid pace at which that number has grown that separates him from his peers. The Rooney family has a record 36 wins over an 86-year stretch, and the publicly owned Green Bay Packers have 34 wins over 100 years.
Kraft said in the interview with ESPN that the Patriots "really lucked out" with Brady, a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 out of Michigan.
"I think of him as that skinny young man coming down the steps of the old stadium with the pizza box and introducing himself to me," Kraft said in the ESPN interview. "I said, 'I know who you are, you're Tom Brady from Michigan, our sixth-round draft choice.' And he said, 'And I'm the best decision this organization has ever made.'
"Of course, he was fourth on the depth chart. But I think he sure was right. But the greatest thing about him is he's the same guy he was then. He's a genuine person. He's kind. He's polite to everyone. He's a very caring person.
"At the same time, no one works harder or watches more film. What a great example for young kids who come into the locker room; they were 5 or 6 years old watching him, or in their teens. Now they come in and he sets the example. His personality is so engaging."
Kraft also lauded head coach Bill Belichick and what he has meant to his ownership tenure, saying, "I don't think there's been a finer coach in the 99-year history of the league."
Asked what he thinks Belichick's legacy will be, Kraft said, "He's the GOAT of coaches, just like our quarterback is the GOAT of quarterbacks. And no one can dispute it.
"The fact that our organization has been able to perform at this level in the age of the salary cap, when everyone spends the same amount of money, I'm pretty proud that we've been able to keep him and our quarterback together for 19 years. Please, God, it will be two decades next year. In today's era of free agency and people going in different directions, that's pretty cool."
The Patriots will make their eighth straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.