There's a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding this Sunday's home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. And contrary to popular belief, the reason everyone is so excited is not because I will be in attendance at the game.
In what has become an absolutely phenomenal New England tradition, some of the All-Time Great Patriots are honored at halftime of the team's home opener and inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Last year's inductee, Drew Bledsoe, drew exactly the kind of standing ovation you'd expect to see for a man who took an embarrassment of a franchise on his shoulders and turned it into a contender. As a member of the crowd that day, it definitely ranks up there as one of my proudest moments as a fan, and a personal experience that will be difficult to top.
This Sunday, though...this one is going to be close.
Tomorrow's inductee into the Hall at Patriot Place is one of my - and probably one of everyone's - favorite players of all time, Troy Brown. Brown represents the first of what is sure to be a string of very special, very memorable inductees of the early 2000s squad, guys that pretty much nobody outside of New England had even heard of until they, along with some skinny nobody named Tom Brady, shocked the world in February of 2002.
If there's one thing that we blue collar Pats fans love, it's
beer an unlikely success story. And Troy Brown's rise to prominence in the Patriots system is as unlikely as it gets. An 8th round pick out of Marshall, Troy Brown didn't even make it through the preseason during his first year in the NFL. He would go on to become the all-time team receptions leader and the second longest tenured Patriot in team history, behind only Steve Grogan. By the time his career finally ended, Troy Brown had caught passes, thrown passes, run the ball, played cornerback, made interceptions, caused fumbles, made tackles, returned punts, blocked kicks, made the Pro Bowl, and won three Super Bowls. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Brown was released by the team due to salary cap reasons and was offered a fairly lucrative contract with the New Orleans Saints, only to turn it down outright in order to re-sign for the Patriots for significantly less money. I don't know if there's any other player anywhere who can boast all of those accomplishments coupled with such steadfast, unflinching loyalty. He literally did everything anyone ever asked of him, and he did it well. I guarantee you he would still be out there right now if he could, playing for the Patriots for less money than even I make, just because he loves this game and this team. No, he didn't shatter any record books, but he was part of that special breed who saw football as more than a means to a paycheck, who played his entire career in one place and who solidified his place in team history a hundred times over and then some.
A part of me really wants to get sappy right now and write some long, sloppy, overly emotional tribute to Brown where I talk about how he is the definition of hard work, selflessness, and putting the team first. I wanted to highlight some of his greatest moments, like his 28 yard reception in Super Bowl XXXVI or the fumble he generated against the San Diego Chargers in the 2006 Divisional Playoffs that gave the Patriots the ball back and set up the win. I wanted to get into a whole big thing about how Troy was on the front lines of building The Patriot Way, and how every single player on this team can look to his career for guidance on how to play this game the right way. I wanted to do all of that and more. But the bottom line is that there just isn't enough time in the day or space on the page to really do the man justice. It's also impossible to highlight some of his career achievements without leaving so many more off the list entirely. And to be honest, I'd say that Troy's biggest moments with the Patriots occurred at times when the cameras were nowhere near him, focusing instead on the superstars while he quietly went about his business and did everything he possibly could to help his team win. There's really no way that I, with my limited grasp of the English language and internet-and-booze-stunted attention span, can ever hope to write about a man like that, and so I'm not even going to try.
Troy Brown will never be in a Hall of Fame conversation. He will never go down as one of the All-Time Greats. There won't be any prime time specials about him on NFL Network or ESPN. But there is a very, very special place reserved for him at One Patriot Way and in the hearts of every single fan who can appreciate just how much he gave to this franchise. I consider it a true honor to stand among those who will get to see his Hall of Fame induction in person tomorrow, and I plan on cheering until my throat bleeds.