Tom Brady’s quarterback

The unlikely story of how a kid from a Boston suburb became one of Tom Brady’s closest confidantes.

Ben Rawitz (left) with Tom Brady (right) after the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX win in Arizona.
Ben Rawitz (left) with Tom Brady (right) after the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX win in Arizona.

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As the confetti rained down following the dramatic conclusion to Super Bowl XLIX, Tom Brady embraced Patriots coach Bill Belichick, franchise owner Bob Kraft, teammate Julian Edelman, celebrity supporter Mark Wahlberg and, of course, his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen.

Amid those faces familiar to the 114 million watching the game on TV was Ben Rawitz. Wearing a plaid button-down shirt and jeans, he looked like any other fan lucky enough to score a Super Bowl ticket. The only hint at a connection to New England’s superhero quarterback was a navy blue TB12 baseball hat. Unlike just about every other fan, he was cleared to run down from the stands and onto the field just moments after cornerback Malcolm Butler sealed the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks.

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“I just yelled Tom’s name out,’’ Rawitz said. “I just remember people all around him. All I wanted to do is give him a big hug and tell him how proud I was of him. I take his success personally.’’

The unlikely yet inseparable pair shared a private moment on the most public stage. The quarterback whose face everyone knows, embracing a man whose face is familiar to almost no one.

“It was a special moment,’’ Brady said. “I remember saying ‘I couldn’t have done it without you.’’’

It had been 10 years since the Patriots’ last Super Bowl win. Rawitz spent the intervening decade rising from a lowly position on the team’s marketing staff to becoming Brady’s business manager, friend, confidante, and gatekeeper, all wrapped up into one. By the time the Patriots took the field at University of Phoenix Stadium in February, Rawitz had spent years moving heaven and earth with a single goal in mind: Make Brady’s life easier, better, and more lucrative.

Brady (left) and Rawitz (right). —Carter Smith

When Under Armour wants to discuss Brady’s endorsement deal, they call Rawitz. When Brady buys or sells real estate, it’s Rawitz who manages the transactions. When Brady needs to purchase an $8,500 pool cover, it’s Rawitz who breaks the news that it doesn’t come in white. When the creators of a new online dating app want Brady’s endorsement, Rawitz declines because he thinks Gisele wouldn’t approve.

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“When I want to get things done off the field, I go to Ben,’’ Brady said. “Practically all of my decisions, he’s consulted on. He’s someone I always rely on for his judgment.’’

‘I’ll do anything’

Rawitz, now 33, spent his early childhood in Wellesley, Massachusetts, then his middle school years in Baltimore County, Maryland, before returning to Massachusetts to attend Wellesley High School.

After graduating high school in 2001, Rawitz headed to Elon University in North Carolina, where he majored in communications, played on the rugby team, and served as social director for his fraternity.

Rawitz’s improbable ascent to Brady’s inner circle began when he was a NECN summer intern in June 2004. He was introduced to Matt Quinn, then in charge of the New England Revolution’s grassroots marketing, while tagging along on a sales call to Gillette Stadium, also the home of the Patriots.

“It was so cool,’’ Rawitz said. “I don’t know what clicked, but something did, and I just started emailing Matt. I said ‘I’ll wake up at 6 a.m. I’ll brew your coffee, and hand you your coffee as you’re walking in the door – whatever I can do.’’’

His persistence paid off, and Rawitz was offered a six-week internship during winter break.

“My second day, I dressed up as the Patriots’ mascot and went to one of Mr. Kraft’s friend’s houses for a birthday party,’’ Rawitz said.

Rawitz (left) visiting Gillette Stadium as a NECN intern in June 2004. —Courtesy of The Kraft Group

When Rawitz wasn’t dressing up as a team mascot or a Papa Gino’s delivery guy to deliver pizzas to fans in their seats during games, he was hawking credit cards.

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His only encounter with Brady during the brief internship came during an autograph signing.

“I was handing him Sharpies. I was too nervous to say anything,’’ Rawitz said. “I was just an intern.’’

‘The intern who stole the limo at the Super Bowl’

After returning to college that January, Rawitz watched from North Carolina as the Patriots won their way toward a spot in Super Bowl XXXIX.

When the team defeated the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, Rawitz called Quinn and asked if he could come as an unpaid volunteer to Jacksonville, Florida, where New England would face off against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Working at the Super Bowl was a privilege generally extended only to employees, not interns, according to Lou Imbriano, then chief marketing officer for the Patriots.

“But logistics were really a nightmare in Jacksonville,’’ Imbriano said. “We needed bodies.’’

If Rawitz could get himself to Jacksonville, he would be allowed to help out.

“I drove 20 hours, and slept in a Patriots RV on the side of a road,’’ Rawitz said.

Super Bowl weekend is traditionally a sea of parties, with athletes, celebrities, and other movers and shakers bouncing from one event to the next.

The Patriots’ sales and marketing staff – along with their top clients – were staying 30 miles from EverBank Field (then known as Alltel Stadium) at a hotel in St. Augustine. The team hired limos and luxury buses to transport clients to and from the airport and parties.

When the marketing group came up one ticket short for the Maxim magazine party, Imbriano told Rawitz to wait outside and have the limo ready.

Hours later, when Imbriano and other senior staffers emerged from the party, the limo was already cruising down I-95. Rawitz was in the backseat. Alone.

“I thought they had told me that I could use the limo for the night,’’ Rawitz said. “I was like ‘Oh cool.’ I got a phone call just screaming at me that I had taken the limo that was supposed to be for their top, top people.’’

“They’re calling Ben, saying ‘You will never… have a job here,’’’ said Jon Fador, who worked alongside Quinn at the time.

Rawitz was desperate: “I said ‘Sir, let me out! You need to let me out of this limo!’’’

At 2 a.m., Rawitz found himself walking down an I-95 exit ramp toward a Jacksonville gas station.

“I called my parents,’’ Rawitz said. “I’m crying, saying how I’ve ruined this opportunity, that it’s over.’’

Gail Fine, Rawitz’s mother, remembers getting the call.

“He just felt so bad about letting people down,’’ Fine said. “When I look back on his life, that was probably the biggest mistake he ever made.’’

Imbriano was baffled.

“I’m thinking what lunatic gets the opportunity to come to the Super Bowl and impress people and then goes off and takes a limo at his own discretion?’’ Imbriano said. “What is he thinking? I wanted to send him home and make sure he didn’t work here anymore.’’

The Super Bowl ticket Rawitz had been promised didn’t materialize. He watched the game from a bar, and returned to North Carolina for his final semester at Elon.

After graduation, he moved to Charlotte and became a lifeguard at a country club.

‘The grunty-est of grunt jobs’

That fall, the grassroots marketing group was told they could hire one person. Quinn and Fador wanted Rawitz.

But convincing Imbriano took some doing.

“I was like ‘Are you guys crazy?’ But they convinced me he wasn’t a reckless, limo-stealing intern,’’ Imbriano said. “Ben would not have a job if it wasn’t for the relationships he had made and them vouching for him.’’

Rawitz was in the bedroom of his Charlotte apartment when he got the call.

“I was dumbfounded. I was just so speechless. I couldn’t believe it,’’ Rawitz said. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god. This is amazing.’’’

Rawitz, dressed up as the Revolution’s mascot, during his December 2005 internship. —Courtesy of Nancy Newkirk

He accepted the marketing coordinator position, with a starting salary of $22,000, and moved into his father’s basement in Wellesley.

“It was the grunty-est of grunt jobs you could get there,’’ Fador said.

Rawitz didn’t realize it at the time, but his ability to withstand the running jokes about stealing the limo may have actually helped him.

“[Ben] thought [the limo incident] was the nail in his coffin. But we remembered him for it,’’ Fador said.

Rawitz was back to pushing credit cards. But it wasn’t long before he set his sights on something bigger.

‘I was mystified by him’

In Rawitz’s early days on the job, Will McDonough was Brady’s right-hand man. Like Rawitz, McDonough got his foot in the door in Foxborough with a low-level marketing position.

“I was mystified by [Will],’’ Rawitz said. “Who is this guy? He would come and go as he pleased. I saw something in him, and I knew this was my way to do something more and do something bigger. So I tried to literally shadow Will as much as possible.’’

And McDonough saw something he liked, too: “I saw a lot of my early self in Ben.’’

By early 2007, Rawitz had become the man behind the man behind the man.

“Will would have a party, and I would come the next day and clean up,’’ Rawitz said. “I just kept saying ‘Whatever you need, whatever you need me to do.’ I would literally do anything to get in with Will.’’

Rawitz saw McDonough as a path to success, even if he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that meant at the time.

“There’s a lot of value to riding shotgun. When you’re exposed to that in very formative years, that level of visibility into how things operate, and how they could and should be better – it gives you a very unique perspective,’’ McDonough said. “Anything you need – that’s kind of how Ben still ends every conversation.’’

McDonough (left) and Rawitz (right) visiting the set of ‘Entourage’ in April 2010.

“It wasn’t about Tom. It had nothing to do with Tom. I was never one of those kids growing up who had an autograph book,’’ Rawitz said. “For me it was just about success. I always wanted to be successful. And I was anxious to get to the next step.’’

With Rawitz on board, McDonough was able to able to begin the transition to a new role, less as Brady’s right-hand man and more as his business partner. In 2008, McDonough headed to New York, where he helped launch a hedge fund in which Brady was an investor.

“Ben was a gift to me,’’ McDonough said. “Bringing him on enabled my trajectory and helped me get out of the weeds.’’

‘Once you’re behind that line’

The path to earning Brady’s trust began with earning McDonough’s.

“Will said, ‘Just remember, a lot of the stuff we hear stays between us. A lot of the stuff you’re gonna hear and see – you’re gonna have to be very secretive,’’’ Rawitz said. “I just remember that moment. I thought ‘I’m in now. He trusts me.’’’

In December 2008, Rawitz left the Patriots to work full-time for Brady.

“I knew Will had a great deal of trust in him,’’ Brady said.

The job offer came during a relaxed moment in Brady’s family room.

“I had my dad in my ear saying ‘You need to fight for some money,’’’ Rawitz said. “But I still had the attitude then that ‘I’ll do it for free. I don’t care what I’m getting paid. Just let me work.’’’

From 2009 until 2014, Rawitz’s home during the off-season was a guest room in Brady’s Los Angeles home.

“If you’re Tom, that circle of trust has to stay small,’’ McDonough said. “Once you’re behind that line, you’re behind that line.’’

Rawitz’s first challenge seemed insurmountable: to learn as much about Brady – his likes, dislikes, preferences – as McDonough had.

Brady (left) and Rawitz (right) while filming a scene for ‘Entourage’ in March 2014. —Doug Ellin

“I still remember sitting with Tom, and I’m frustrated, saying, ‘How am I ever gonna know all these little things the way Will knows you?’’’ Rawitz said. “And he said ‘Trust me. It takes time.’ Now I know everything. I know exactly how he likes every little, little thing. I can see [Tom’s] face, and I know he wants this.’’

Rawitz lived on Brady’s schedule. They woke up at the same time, drank protein shakes together, worked out together, and ate meals together.

“We hadn’t realized how close he was, literally. We were Skyping, and Gisele walked across and said ‘Hi,’’’ said Nancy Newkirk, Rawitz’s stepmother. “We thought [Ben] was off segregated somewhere.’’

In those early years on the job, Rawitz researched the perfect baby crib, planned children’s birthday parties, walked the family’s dog, and bought groceries. A day that began with a meeting about an endorsement deal might well end by giving Brady’s children a bath.

“If we were together on a Saturday, Tom and I would go out and prune the bushes,’’ Rawitz said. “If Tom asked me to do something, it’s because he would do it, too. I would never work for someone who wasn’t like that. Everything he’s asked me to do – I’ve seen Tom do it himself.’’

When Brady moved his family from Los Angeles to Boston, Rawitz handled everything – from overseeing movers to coordinating with contractors as construction was completed on the couple’s Brookline home.

“In every aspect of my life – marketing deals, construction projects, some things that are very personal – it is about the details and getting things right,’’ Brady said. “[Ben] always finds a way to go the extra mile.’’

‘1,000 guys who want my job’

While Rawitz can’t match Brady in athletic prowess, he has been honing the skills that would help him in this role since his own days playing football.

“Even growing up, Ben was always thinking about process improvement. Why are we doing this way when we could do it better this way,’’ Newkirk said.

Bill Tracey, who coached the Wellesley Raiders football team, remembers Rawitz well, though not because of his on-field performance as a linebacker.

“He was not gonna be a great football player,’’ Tracey said. “But he was a kid who was always paying attention, always on board. To me, he just seemed like one of those kids who was trustworthy. You could depend on him.’’

Rawitz, wearing No. 74, in the Wellesley High School football team photo. —Courtesy of Nancy Newkirk

For all their differences, Brady and Rawitz share the same obsessive attention to detail, and the same drive.

“Tom looks at football by playing a game and immediately looking ahead to the next game. That’s how Ben looks at tasks. Okay I finished this, what’s next?’’ said Kevin Brady, a close friend of Brady’s but not a relative. “They’re both always looking ahead to the next step.’’

Rawitz’s goal is to streamline as much of Brady’s life as possible. With anything that has to be done – can it be done better? Faster? More easily?

“Tom goes to every practice. He has the attitude every single day, every practice, that he could be replaced tomorrow,’’ Rawitz said. “I’m not doing brain surgery. I have the attitude that I could be replaced tomorrow.’’

Rawitz’s iPhone contains a never-ending to-do list: items that need to be autographed for charity, a list of who in Brady’s inner circle will be coming to the next game, a reminder to get Brady’s approval for marketing materials.

“He was Pavlov’s dog. If the phone buzzed, he looked at it,’’ said Bill Fine, Rawitz’s stepfather.

Whenever challenged by friends and family members about being tethered to his phone at all hours, Rawitz has a simple answer.

“Ben would always say to me: ‘There’s a thousand guys lined up behind me who would take this job,’’’ said Jack Rawitz, Rawitz’s father. “And he’s right.’’

‘You don’t know who’s real’

The legend of “the intern who stole the limo at the Super Bowl’’ made its way through the entire Patriots organization, including the locker room. Once again, his ability to take – or dole out – a joke served him well.

“You gotta be able to take jabs,’’ said former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. “You don’t want the weird guy who’s just awkward and standing there. You want someone who brings something to the table. You want someone who’s like one of the guys you grew up with. At the end of the day, we’re all friends and boys.’’

Rawitz has also been able to provide players with something that can be hard to come by in the NFL: the occasional reality check.

“As a pro athlete in the Boston area, you don’t know who’s real,’’ said Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. “With Rawitz, you can ask for certain opinions and not think he’s sheltering you. Rawitz will say ‘No bro that’s not right. You should never do that.’’’

Rawitz (left) and Julian Edelman (right) after the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX win. —Instagram

Ask Brady’s current and former teammates about Rawitz, and they’ll praise his versatility and loyalty.

“Ben’s a joker, but he’s not a clown. He can play a lot of roles. He can be an organizer. He can party with you,’’ said former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. “But as a professional athlete, it’s all about trust. That’s the ultimate compliment – saying, ‘I would vouch for that guy.’’’

Rawitz has also helped some Patriots players as a real estate agent, marketing consultant, and business adviser. By his count, he has arranged for more than a dozen players to exchange an appearance and autograph signing for a free phone and service. He arranged for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to make an appearance at the corporate headquarters of a home appliance company. And he was behind Edelman’s appearance on America’s Next Top Model.

“I would ask him, ‘Where can I get a fridge or a couch?’’’ Edelman said. “And he’d say ‘I’ll call you back.’ And he’d get a deal where I do a radio thing and get a free couch.’’

Rawitz also plans every detail of the itinerary for Brady’s well-known annual Kentucky Derby trip.

“Ben loves doing the itinerary. If the slightest thing goes wrong, we’re all over him. If we get stopped at a red light, we’re like ‘What the hell dude?’’’ said Welker.

Brady’s annual Kentucky Derby trip in May 2015. (From left to right: Lonie Paxton, Will McDonough, Matt Cassel, Kevin Brady, Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Ben Rawitz, Rob Gronkowski, Ogden Phipps, and Danny Amendola.) —Facebook

‘From gopher to confidante’

As Brady’s off-the-field ventures expanded, Rawitz’s responsibilities evolved.

“When I was working with Tom, he was single, in his 20s. The world was a simpler place,’’ McDonough said.

Brady’s needs have increasingly become the needs of not just a professional athlete, but of a father, husband, and A-list celebrity.

“Tommy’s life is much more complicated today than it was in the past,’’ agreed Tom Brady Sr., Brady’s father.

The tasks once handled by Rawitz alone are now divided among a staff that includes a nanny, house managers, a chef, and others.

“We’ve evolved together,’’ Brady said. “As you gain more trust in someone, and they continue to overdeliver, you entrust them with more and more things.’’

A recent photograph of Rawitz, taken in Boston. —Todd Mazer

Since getting his real estate license in 2008, Rawitz has managed all of Brady and Bündchen’s real estate transactions. When Brady decided to sell his luxury penthouse condo on Beacon Street, it was Rawitz who represented him. When Bündchen needed an office, it was Rawitz who hunted down the perfect spot.

“He’s gone from gopher to confidante,’’ said Fine, Rawitz’s stepfather.

“When it comes to final decisions – the final say – I’m almost their voice for when they’re not around,’’ Rawitz said. “I know exactly what fits [Tom]. I can sit in on meetings and say, ‘This is what Tom wants,’ and not have to go double-check that. I know every little thing about him. I’m sitting there when Tom is looking at potential investment deals. I’m sitting there when he’s looking at potential marketing deals.’’

But often, Rawitz’s primary job is saying no.

“My goal during the football season is to have close to zero distractions for Tom,’’ Rawitz said. “So I try to keep the ‘gate’ as closed as possible. Tom’s main focus is obviously on the football field, so any deal that will distract him from that I have to say no to. It’s always football first.’’

Can Brady make an appearance somewhere on a game day or the day before a game? No.

Will Brady write a forward for a book he hasn’t read? No.

Will Brady show up for a couple of hours at a beer pong tournament in Manhattan? No.

How long Rawitz will remain at Brady’s side isn’t clear.

“I’m excited to see [Ben] grow in his career,’’ Brady said. “He can always rely on me for anything he needs.’’

After a three-year stint at Goldman Sachs’ private wealth unit, McDonough moved on to Atlas Merchant Capital, where he’s a founding partner in a venture that could position him to become “one of Africa’s biggest bankers,’’ according to a recent profile.

Despite having moved on from working directly for Brady, McDonough and Brady remain close friends.

“Tom says this a lot: ‘If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you’ve ever got,’’’ McDonough said. “I wasn’t necessarily aspiring to be Tom Brady’s manager for the rest of my life. And I don’t think Ben is.’’

Rawitz isn’t sure what’s next, but he has no plans, nor any desire to move on from Brady. At least not entirely.

“I know I’ll always have some connection with Tom and Gisele,’’ Rawitz said.

‘Are you my brother or are you my boss?’

For now, Brady and Bündchen are as much Rawitz’s family as they are his employers.

“I can be tough on him at times like a big brother can,’’ Brady said. “He’s very much family to me and my wife and our kids.’’

His immersion in Brady’s family hasn’t always made it easy to find time for his own. In 2013, Rawitz had to choose between wrapping presents for Brady and Bündchen’s kids and being on time for a 7 p.m. dinner to celebrate his mother’s birthday at Teatro, a restaurant in Boston’s Theater District.

“He showed up at nine,’’ Rawitz’s mother said. “Their life was his life.’’

He missed a vacation to Italy with his own family. He was more likely to end up on vacation with Tom, Gisele, and the kids.

“It’s exactly how you would feel about your older brother and older sister,’’ Rawitz said. “You absolutely love them, but sometimes they’re kind of bossy.’’

Brady (left) and Rawitz (right) during a 2011 trip to Disneyland. —Facebook

In 2014, Rawitz began the slow process of bringing his actual family into Brady and Bündchen’s world. His 24-year-old half-brother, Jeff Fine, is now handling the assistant responsibilities once shouldered by Rawitz, notably upping Brady’s game on social media. It was Rawitz and Fine who found Brady’s resume while unpacking boxes after the move to Brookline, and urged Brady to post it to Facebook.

Fine and Rawitz aren’t the only members of their family to have been on the Brady family payroll. Rawitz’s half-sister, Ali Fine, had a stint as Brady’s dog-walker, and is now deputy director of Best Buddies New York, a non-profit with which Brady is affiliated.

“It’s funny how it has become a family business,’’ she said. “But it makes sense. Anyone Ben says can be trusted, they will trust, too. And Ben obviously trusts his family members.’’

Jeff Fine (left) and Rawitz (right) after the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX. —Courtesy of Jeff Fine

Fine is now attempting to learn what Rawitz learned – the personalities and preferences of Brady, Bündchen, and their children.

“Having a tight inner circle is extremely important to us,’’ said Bündchen. “[Ben and Jeff] have become part of our extended family over the years.’’

And while he’s a ways off from knowing them the way Rawitz does, he has a model – as Rawitz did with McDonough – to follow.

“I joke, ‘Are you my brother, or are you my co-worker, or are you my boss?,’’’ said Jeff Fine. “Everything I know about this comes from Ben. He taught me to try and always think like Tom and think like Gisele, and look for ways to make things easier for them.’’

The offseason is generally a time when Rawitz can focus more on the parts of his life that don’t revolve around Brady’s. That hasn’t been the case this year, with Deflategate dominating headlines.

“I have to be careful. I feel in a way like his bodyguard,’’ Rawitz said. “I am always overly protective of Tom. He always jokes that I have a big ‘hate list,’ but it’s more that I like to keep things so Tom never has to be the bad guy. Maybe sometimes I am too skeptical of people, but I take looking out for him personally.’’

Brady (left) and Rawitz (right) arriving at Salem State University in May 2015. —Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

For Rawitz, the unrelenting media and legal frenzy surrounding the scandal has only heightened his longstanding wariness about sharing details of Brady’s life.

“It’s been hard to watch. It’s like watching something happen to a family member,’’ Rawitz said, as Deflategate dragged on through the summer. “Everyone asks questions. Sometimes I think – ‘Don’t you wanna talk about me?’’’

In July, Rawitz’s grandfather passed away.

“I call and say ‘Grandma, how are you doing?’ I’m in tears. She maybe says two things, and then she says, ‘How’s Tom? Is he doing okay with the deflate stuff? I’ve been thinking about him.’ And I say ‘Yeah Grandma, he’s okay.’’’

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