Earlier this month, the New England Patriots officially closed the book on the 2018 season: at a party at team owner Robert Kraft’s home, the club handed out the championship rings earned for beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53. The rings are the biggest that have ever been created for such a purpose, but their actual value goes far beyond the 422 diamonds they have been made out of.
“When I look at the ring, I think about the people that made this possible — starting with the guys in that locker room. I truly felt like we had a brotherhood,” team captain and special teams ace Matthew Slater told patriots.com at the ceremony when speaking about the ring’s meaning to him. “This ring is a testament to the character of the men in that locker room over the 2018 season. When I look at this ring, that’s what I think of.”
Slater is not the only man on the club to see the ring as representation of the squad that were the 2018 Patriots — a team that had to face its fair share of doubters on the way to capturing the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi trophy. “This is just a culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work done by an incredible group of people,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed out.
“Each ring is special because it’s that team’s ring,” continued New England’s offensive signal caller, who has been a part of all six championships brought back to the Northeast by the Patriots. McDaniels also went on to speak about the mystique of the Patriots organization and what the underlying foundation of its success is: “People oftentimes wonder what the magic and the mystery is of our organization, and it’s just the people we had.”
Fellow offensive assistant Dante Scarnecchia, who won five Super Bowls as the Patriots’ offensive line coach, sees the ring as more of a manifestation of memories collected over the course of what was almost a year towards ultimately (re)capturing the title. “It’s not so much the ring for me — it’s the memories that you keep drawing back on through out the season,” said the 71-year-old, who is back in his role for 2019.
The memories Scarnecchia spoke of are of course not just tied to the games themselves, but also to everything that led up to them — the countless hours of preparation from spring to early February to get to that final hill to climb. “You just go back to the time of all the practices that you put in, all the hard work. You think about the brotherhood, the bond you built with the guys on the team,” said 2018 rookie running back Sony Michel.
Michel, who scored the lone touchdown of Super Bowl 53 when he found the end zone from two yards out in the fourth quarter, was not the only first-year Patriot to call himself a champion at the conclusion of the season. Danny Shelton, for example, was also new on the team: New England acquired him via trade from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason to play a rotational role along the Patriots’ interior defensive line.
“Coming from an 0-16 season with the Browns the year before, and making it to the Super Bowl and winning one of these... I can say that I earned it with my guys,” said the former first-round draft pick, who was re-signed by New England earlier this offseason. Shelton was not the only ex-Brown on the Patriots’ 2018 roster, though, as one of his former teammates also went the literal worst-to-first route from Cleveland to the Super Bowl.
“Just a great feeling, and it means the world when you talk about career,” said cornerback Jason McCourty. One of four defenders to play all 65 snaps in the title game, the veteran earned his first Super Bowl ring — an accomplishment made even more special by the fact that he did so alongside his twin brother: Devin McCourty, who obviously already owned two championship rings entering the 2018 campaign.
Also earning his first Super Bowl ring was fellow starting defensive back Stephon Gilmore, who like the McCourtys did not leave the field even once against the Rams. The soft-spoken cornerback, who was arguably the NFL’s best in 2018 and made the game-clinching interception against Los Angeles, spoke about his feelings heading into the celebration event: “I couldn’t wait to see the ring, and the ring is more than what I expected,” Gilmore said. “It’s a great feeling to be a Super Bowl champ.”
“It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little boy to have a Super Bowl ring and to help a team win a Super Bowl. It really is a dream come true,” added defensive lineman John Simon. Like the aforementioned Sony Michel, Danny Shelton and Jason McCourty, Simon also earned a ring in his first season with the Patriots — and like all three of them, he will get a chance to add to his collection this upcoming season.
The same also holds true for one of the most experienced players on New England’s roster — but one that was not with the team when it won its previous Super Bowls: Brian Hoyer left the Patriots in 2012 only to return in 2017, capping his time away with two title-game losses. In his third try, however, the 33-year-old finally earned his first championship and the ring that is the mark of a winner in the NFL.
“I look at this and everything in my career, the ups and downs, it’s all worth it,” said Hoyer, who also spent time with six teams before re-joining the Patriots midway through the 2017 season. “It took me ten years to get this ring, and I told those other guys: if my first one is the biggest one, I’ll be happy.”