Willie McGinest had an illustrious NFL career. The fourth overall selection in the NFL’s 1994 draft, he went on to become a cornerstone of the New England Patriots’ early-era dynasty and helped the organizations win three Super Bowls. Along the way, he was named to a pair of Pro Bowls, was voted to the Patriots’ teams of both the 1990s and 2000s as well as their Hall of Fame, and remains the league’s all-time leader in postseason sacks. Even though he ended his career with the Cleveland Browns, McGinest is a New England icon.
Over the course of his 15 years in pro football, he also competed alongside dozens of players. For a recent story on NFL.com, the now-48-year-old unveiled the five favorite teammates of his playing days — with four of them (Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas being the exception) tracing back to his time with the Patriots:
5) Ben Coates, tight end, retired
As an outside linebacker, I faced him almost every day. He taught me a lot about covering tight ends in space and how to use my hands to create leverage when rushing the quarterback. A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Coates was a complete tight end.
McGinest and Coates spent six seasons together, and the former outside linebacker compared him to future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski in his write-up: “To me, Gronk is the latest version of Ben Coates. He was the first tight end who could do everything well.” Coates left the Patriots before the start of their dynasty when he was released ahead of the 2000 season, but he won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens that same year.
4) Richard Seymour, defensive lineman, retired
Seymour was a little brother to me when he came into the league, and he still is; we bonded instantly. More than just a teammate, we spent plenty of offseasons together training and hanging out with our families.
Seymour was recently voted to the Patriots Hall of Fame, and will get inducted later this year — joining McGinest in the club of the organization’s most important players. Like Coates and McGinest himself, he ended his career outside of New England after getting traded to then-Oakland Raiders but he has earned his spot in franchise history due to his role on three Super Bowl-winning teams and his outstanding performances on the field: “Handling double teams easily, he’d just manhandle his opponents; we called him “the Hulk.”
2) Ty Law, cornerback, Hall of Famer
No one could tell him he wasn’t the best CB in the NFL or that he couldn’t cover the league’s top receiver. He thrived off those comments and could play man or zone extremely well, allowing him to play in a lot of systems if needed. With confidence through the roof and no fear, Law made one helluva career for himself.
While Seymour and the other players on McGinest’s list are yet to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Law has already made it when he was inducted last year. The former first-round draft pick spent the first 10 years of his career with the Patriots — all of which alongside McGinest — and proved himself as one of the best cornerbacks in football. While in New England, he won three Super Bowls and was voted to four Pro Bowls.
1) Tom Brady, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
His competitive nature, work ethic and ability to perform at the highest level in the most pressure-packed situations are why he’s considered the best to ever play our game. It’s why he’s won three league MVP awards. It’s why he’s won SIX Lombardi Trophies. It’s why he’s still playing at 42 years old (he’ll turn 43 in August). The one thing I’ll point out in this piece is that Brady can work in any system and with anyone. He’s always been about the success of the team, so I can’t wait to watch how this new chapter unfolds in Tampa. His competitive nature won’t let him fail.
Brady and McGinest spent six years together, and the two formed an instant bond and played pivotal roles in turning the Patriots from an up-and-down team in the 1990s to the lone dynasty of the 2000s. While both left the team late in their careers — Brady signed with the Buccaneers in free agency this year — the impact they have had on New England has been enormous (especially in the case of six-time Super Bowl winner and greatest quarterback of all time, Brady).