Bledsoe is 2011 Fans' Choice
5/16/11 3:10 PM
The New England Patriots announced that Drew Bledsoe has been voted by the fans as the 17th
player and 18th
member to enter the Patriots Hall of Fame. Since the new process for induction was instituted in 2007, Bledsoe earned the highest percentage of votes for any candidate and becomes the first player to be selected by the fans into the Patriots Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
“Drew Bledsoe played such an integral role in our efforts to rebuild the Patriots brand,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. “He gave fans hope for the future and provided many memorable moments during his record-breaking career. I will never forget Drew’s record-setting performance in that come-from-behind victory against Minnesota the year I bought the team. It sparked a seven-game win streak and put the Patriots back in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. For a franchise that had only hosted one playoff game in its first 35 years, winning the AFC Championship Game at home in Foxboro and taking the Patriots to the playoffs for three consecutive years were unimaginable goals prior to his arrival.”
Bledsoe (see his press conference transcript below) will join Jon Morris, who was selected to the hall of fame by the senior selection committee, as the 2011 honorees. Bledsoe and Morris will be inducted in a public ceremony outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon on Saturday, Sept. 17. The event is free to the public and Patriots fans are encouraged to attend.
Bledsoe was the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft and for the next eight years was considered the face of the Patriots franchise. During his nine-year Patriots career, he broke the Patriots’ career passing records for attempts (4,518), completions (2,544) and yards (29,657). Bledsoe still holds the Patriots’ single-season passing records for attempts (691) and completions (400) and is the only player in franchise history to pass for over 400 yards multiple times (4). He still holds the NFL record for attempts in a season (691 in 1994) and both attempts (70) and completions (45) in a game against Minnesota in 1994 that sparked a seven-game win streak, propelling the Patriots to their first playoff berth in eight years. Bledsoe led the Patriots to the playoffs four times in his first six seasons, helping the team earn back-to-back division titles and three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history. In 1996, he guided the Patriots to their second AFC Championship in franchise history and a trip to Super Bowl XXXI. Bledsoe is the only quarterback in NFL history with four seasons of at least 600 pass attempts, including three straight from 1994-96 with the Patriots.
Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new hall of fame tradition, inducting one player or head coach into the team’s hall of fame each year. The process for induction involves a panel of media, alumni and staff who collectively nominate the players and/or head coaches who have been out of football for at least four years who are most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year’s finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year’s hall of fame honoree.
Last month, a 21-person nomination committee met at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon to discuss this year’s candidates for induction. Those votes were tallied and the three finalists were Houston Antwine, Bledsoe and Bill Parcells.
Senior Selection Committee
The Patriots formed a senior selection committee to ensure that early era players are not overlooked in the voting process. This year’s committee consisted of 10 veteran media and staff members who gathered to discuss candidates who have been retired for at least 25 years to identify the player most deserving of Patriots Hall of Fame recognition.
About the Patriots Hall of Fame
The Patriots Hall of Fame was officially formed in 1991 after John Hannah became the first Patriots player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With the hall of fame, the Patriots created a new way of honoring their greatest players. But it wasn’t until 2008, with the opening of The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, that Patriots players, past and present, truly had a place to call home that they could share with their family, friends and fans. Enshrinement into The Hall is now an honor befitting of the franchise’s greatest players, with 30-foot video pylons displaying each enshrinee. Beginning in 2007, fans became part of the hall of fame tradition and active participants in the selection process. The Patriots are the only NFL team that allow their fans an opportunity to select the team’s hall of famers. In the first year of the new hall of fame voting process, a nomination committee presented Ron Burton, Ben Coates and Stanley Morgan as finalists. That year, the fans selected Morgan for induction and have since added Coates (2008), Jim Nance (2009) and Sam “Bam” Cunningham (2010). In 2009, the Kraft family also selected Patriots founder Billy Sullivan as the first non-player to be inducted into the hall of fame as a contributor. This year, a senior selection committee was formed and selected three-time hall of fame finalist Jon Morris for induction.
The complete list of Patriots Hall of Famers is listed below:
John Hannah (1991)
Nick Buoniconti (1992)
Gino Cappelletti (1992)
Bob Dee (1993)
Jim Lee Hunt (1993)
Steve Nelson (1993)
Vito “Babe” Parilli (1993)
Mike Haynes (1994)
Steve Grogan (1995)
Andre Tippett (1999)
Bruce Armstrong (2001)
Stanley Morgan (2007)
Ben Coates (2008)
Jim Nance (2009)
Sam Cunningham (2010)
Jon Morris (2011)
Drew Bledsoe (2011)
William “Billy” Sullivan (2009)
About The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon
The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multi-media exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for the thousands of schoolchildren who visit each year.
2011 PATRIOTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE DREW BELDSOE
May 16, 2011
DB: Obviously this is a tremendous honor, to be elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame. It was a little overwhelming this morning to receive the call from Mr. [Robert] Kraft – honestly a little more emotional than I thought it would have been. Just to be considered in the company of Bill Parcells and Houston Antwine was a great honor in and of itself. And then to be elected to the hall of fame was really a tremendous honor. I’m really looking forward to getting back there in September and [it is] obviously a great honor. It means a lot to me and a lot to my family. With that, I will open it up for questions.
Q: Congratulations, Drew. What memory stands out to you more than any other?
DB: Oh geeze, there are so many it’s hard to cycle through all of them, but there are some times that stand out pretty clearly, beginning with being drafted and coming out there in 1993, a 21-year-old kid out of Walla Walla, Washington and coming in as the number one draft pick to the New England Patriots was a pretty heady time for a small town kid. So that memory and all that went with that – being in New York and then coming up to Boston and kind of being inserted into that melee was pretty crazy times. But then particular games that stand out: the game against the Vikings in 1994 that started our seven-game win streak to get us into the playoffs was a huge memory. 1996 having the two playoff games in Foxborough stands out really clearly in my mind. The start of the Steelers game with the fog settling in there and the crowd was as loud as Foxborough ever was in my recollection – that playoff game against the Steelers in ‘96 and then winning the AFC championship game there in front of our fans that were so deserving was a great memory. And then, obviously, in ’01, getting hurt and watching Tom Brady take over and beginning what’s been just a spectacular run of his, and to come back in and play in the AFC championship game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh and help us win that game is a memory that stands out very clearly.
Q: I know it’s very early in the process, but have you thought about what you want to say in your speech during your induction this September?
DB: You know, I have thought about it a little bit and the thing that’s hard, honestly, in thinking about that is that there are so many hundreds of people that really need to be thanked individually and I certainly won’t have time to get through all of those, so I’m trying to figure out how to properly say thank you to all the people who helped me through, not only my career but my life, is a little bit overwhelming. So I’ve got to figure out how to handle that part of it. But then the overriding thing is going to be just a thank you to the New England Patriots fans and to the Kraft family and to the great organization that they were and then have gone on to become since then. It’s really gratifying to feel like I was, with my teammates at the time, we were part of a resurgence of that franchise that has gone on to become probably the premier franchise in the NFL. So it’s gratifying to be a part of that and certainly I’ll touch on that. But yeah, it’s a little bit overwhelming to think about all that needs to be said and try to figure out how to do that in a short amount of time, but I’ve got some time to figure it out and hopefully won’t be too long-winded.
Q: You said that the phone call this morning was more emotional than you thought it was going to be. Why do you think that was?
DB: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. First of all, in the company that I was in during the election process, to think that I was going to be elected out of that group of three, I didn’t know if that would happen or not, and that’s being honest. So that was part of it. But then just to talk to Mr. Kraft and he had some words that he shared with me that just were expressing gratitude for my time there that were really touching. When Stacey [James] sent me a text to ask where I was going to be and if I could take a phone call, I had some inclination that that’s what it was about, but then to actually be on the phone with Mr. Kraft and to hear the words was pretty touching.
Q: Assuming there will be some sort of celebration tonight, what are you serving? What will you be drinking?
DB: You know actually some buddies insisted on buying me a couple of beers to say congratulations, so I’m here doing that with them and then yeah, we’ll probably crack a bottle of Doubleback tonight. I mean, shoot, that’s kind of what we do; we’re in the wine business now and we’re pretty proud of our own product, so we’ll probably crack one of those.
Q: You are going to start a line of inductees coming into The Hall at Patriot Place over the next few years. Do you think the organization will have to add a wing to accommodate everyone who will be enshrined?
DB: Geeze, yeah, that really may have to happen. So many great players have been an integral part of recent Patriots history and you think about all the guys that I played with and then all of the guys that have come through now over the past 15 years, yeah, when you put it like that, I’m feeling fairly happy I was up for election this year because the line starts to get pretty long here pretty quick with all the great players that have come through.
Q: Leading up to this vote, did you have any talks with Bill Parcells or when was the last time you spoke with him?
DB: No, I haven’t talked to Bill since ’06, since I left the Cowboys. We haven’t had a chance to touch base since then, so no, I haven’t talked to him.
Q: When was the last time you were back in Foxborough?
DB: Last year. We came out – my wife and I came out. The excuse was to come out and sell some wine in Boston, but it was really just that: it was an excuse to come back home out there and catch up with some old friends and spend some time back in New England. It was really a great time for us. We hadn’t been back there much at all. I’d been back, obviously, a couple times to play and then had one other trip that I made out there at one point, but my wife hadn’t been back since we left, so it was great. That was a huge part of our lives; we were there for nine years. When I got there, I was a single guy with no kids; when I left I was married with three kids. We really grew up in Boston, so it was great for us to get back there and I’m really looking forward to coming back and bringing the whole family and getting my kids out there now that they’re a little bit older and really experience all that goes into that. It’s going to be pretty exciting to be able to bring them out there.
Q: Do you still stay in touch with your old teammates? If so, who?
DB: Yeah, I keep in touch with a handful of guys. Tommy [Brady] and I exchange messages from time to time. Todd Rucci and I are great friends and see each other a couple times a year. I’ve kept in touch with Scott Zolak off and on and followed his career now that he's on your guys’ side of the business. I’m proud of what he's done and accomplished in that arena. I touch base with Bruce Armstrong fairly frequently; it sounds like he's doing really, really well. I had a chance to see and talk to Ted Johnson a little bit on one of the trips I made out there and obviously, [I’m] concerned about his health and well being, but he seems to be doing ok, at least at times. Really, really sad deal to hear what Kevin Turner, my buddy, is going through in his life, and I’ve touched base with him a few times over the past few months. And then Max Lane, and I see Lawyer Milloy from time to time. He's still going after it though, which is pretty amazing. He's still out there playing as of last year. The way that he’s played the game, to see that he’s still going is pretty impressive. So yeah, I keep in touch with a handful of guys, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to catch up with some of those guys when we get out there in the fall.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on possibly not having a game to go along with your induction ceremony this fall?
DB: Yeah, my anticipation is that cooler heads will prevail before the time when we’re supposed to be having games. I think the only way to do extensive damage is to have games cancelled. I’m a big football fan and always have been. All of my friends are football fans and the only way to alienate such a loyal fan base is to have the billionaires argue with the millionaires over who gets which slice of the pie. I don’t think the average fan wants to hear much about that. I don’t think there’s much sympathy there. My hope and my anticipation is that with the leadership of guys like Robert Kraft that there will be a negotiated solution before we get to the point here where we are missing games.
Q: What do you think of the Patriots’ draft selection of Ryan Mallett this year?
DB: I think everybody recognizes that having a good backup quarterback is essential in this day and age. Guys are still getting bigger, faster and stronger and to rely on one guy to fill that very important position is a risky proposition. I think that was probably a wise move on their part. They saw value there in a talented guy who can come in and learn behind Tommy for years to come and then if he’s called into service – hopefully that never happens – but if he is called into service, having some talent and learning behind one of the best in the game should serve them well if that ever happens. That backup quarterback position is never important until it becomes the most important thing. That was probably a wise selection on their part to have a quality talent behind Tommy if he ever does get injured.
Q: Do you think Mallett is similar to you in physicality and playing style?
DB: You know, that’s what it sounds like. I watched him a little bit in college. He’s a big, strong-armed guy. I’ve never met him, don’t know much about him, but it sounds like he throws it pretty good. I’ve watched him play a little bit. We’ll see how that plays out for them. But he seems to check the boxes, at least physically.