Tom Brady showed up to the NFL Combine with a doughy figure and long boxer shorts. Twenty-two years later, he retires as the greatest player in NFL history, and king of a global branding and fashion empire.

Brady didn’t just play better with age. He looked better, too. Around these parts, that’s just as impressive as his seven Super Bowl rings, and something most gay men can relate to.

I have yet to meet a single boy whose throwback Facebook photos don’t make me raise my eyebrows in horror.

Brady transformed from football star to cultural megastar in the mid-aughts, when the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years. He started dating actress Bridget Moynahan around then, but it’s important to note his fashion sense didn’t really improve. His front-spike was very boy band, and billowy dress shirts were very “dad.”

Brady’s fashion sense gradually improved with each Super Bowl ring.

Early in his career, Brady was viewed more as a game manager who would execute Bill Belichick’s infallible schemes to perfection. That changed in 2007. The Patriots employed one of the most prolific offenses in league history, with Brady leading the NFL in every significant passing category.

It would’ve been the perfect season, if not for the New York Giants’ upset in Super Bowl XLVI. But there was a saving grace from the historic loss.

We were spared pictures of Brady hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with that mop on his head. Can someone get this man the high and tight?

Brady’s hair took a few more years to sort out.

Enter: Gisele. Brady met the renowned supermodel in late 2006 and attended his first Met Gala in 2008. He looked suave in his classic bowtie with black tux ensemble.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for his look at subsequent Met Galas. The Patrick Swayze in “Road House” hairstyle was a miss.

Brady was not meant to sport long hair.

Brady’s relationship with Gisele coincides with his abandonment of Gap jeans for UGG boots, and other luxury endorsements. At the time, UGGs were largely viewed as a women’s brand. Yet, Brady was endorsing them with a full GQ spread.

The toxically masculine loudmouths on sports talk radio couldn't wrap their heads around it, and neither could the boorish football jocks who ruled my high school. Brady was untouchable in my suburban Massachusetts town, except when it came to his interest in fashion shows and all things chique.

The boys would call him “metrosexual,” a pejorative usually reserved for male celebrities who … you know.

By 2014, Brady had his act cleaned up.

It would be a stretch to say Brady is a “gay icon.” As our Cyd Zeigler points out, Brady never publicly spoke about LGBTQ issues, and probably won’t be a guest judge on “Drag Race” anytime soon.

But there’s no doubt he’s turned into a fox who enjoys pushing boundaries. It was always amusing to see frumpy sportswriters express their bewilderment over Brady’s trendy tastes. He exists in a different world, and isn’t afraid to show it.

Take the TB12 brand, for example. Sets of multi-hundred dollar resistance bands and $200 cookbooks don’t exactly speak to the masses.

But they speak to Brady’s quest for football immortality, which he was on his way to achieving before retiring Tuesday. At 44 years old, Brady led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns. The TB12 Method, for all of its unorthodoxies like discouraging the consumption of strawberries, works.

Brady is the real-life Benjamin Button. His play never faltered, and looks always improved.

Brady looked his best when the Buccaneers visited the White House last year.

In other words, he’s an ageless wonder. Even the most football-allergic gays can admire that.