The New England Patriots announced the selection of three former players this afternoon as finalists for this year's induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. For the second time, cornerback Raymond Clayborn and offensive lineman Leon Gray have been selected, and linebacker Willie McGinest joins their ranks for the first time.
Both Gray and Clayborn were Patriots during the 1970s, when the team experienced a series of up-and-down seasons. That said, Raymond Clayborn is a three-time Pro Bowler who represented one half of what is arguably one of the greatest CB duos in NFL history, lining up opposite Mike Haynes. Clayborn also set franchise records with his 31.0 yard average for kickoff returns and three returns for touchdowns. He also sits alongside Ty Law for most career interceptions with the team with 36.
Leon Gray is one of those players who probably should have gotten more credit than he actually did, but playing next to a man like John Hannah will do that. Gray was one of the key cogs in driving a Patriots running game that averaged over 210 yards per game in 1976, helping lead the team to their first 11-win season in franchise history. Gray, alongside Hannah, also helped the Patriots amass the still-standing NFL record 3,165 rushing yards in 1978. Gray and Hannah are arguably the greatest guard/tackle tandem of all time.
Willie McGinest is likely more familiar to most of us here, as he was one of the cornerstones of that Patriots defensive unit that brought three Lombardi Trophies to Foxboro. His 78 sacks are good enough for third in team history, and his 16 postseason sacks are good enough for most all time. He also holds another NFL record with 4.5 sacks in a single playoff game, which he accrued in a 2005 Wild Card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's one of the players that helped build a dynasty and was in many ways a revolutionary regarding how the linebacker position was played.
All in all, an incredibly solid group of finalists. The official 2015 Patriots Hall of Fame selection will take place in early June, with the voting polls closing on May 16th. To cast your vote, click here.