The Patriots have announced the finalists for induction into the franchise’s Hall of Fame later this year: linebacker Tedy Bruschi, coach Chuck Fairbanks, and offensive tackle Leon Gray.
Bruschi, a third-round draft pick out of Arizona in 1996, was a seven-time captain. In 189 career regular-season games (139 starts), he recorded 680 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, and 12 interceptions, four of them returned for touchdowns. In his 13 seasons, the Patriots had 11 winning seasons and made five Super Bowl appearances. Bruschi suffered a stroke in February 2005 but returned to the field later that year and played through 2009.
Fairbanks became the sixth head coach in franchise history in 1973, and also served as general manager. He drafted some of the greatest players in team history, including OL John Hannah and CB Mike Haynes (both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame), RB Sam Cunningham, WR Darryl Stingley, LB Steve Nelson, WR Stanley Morgan, and QB Steve Grogan. In his six seasons as head coach, the Patriots went 46-39 and made two playoff appearances. Fairbanks also introduced the 3-4 defense, which remains part of New England’s playbook.
Gray was a third-round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1973, but was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. He and John Hannah would become the best left tackle/guard combination in the NFL, protecting Grogan, who was sacked a franchise-low 14 times in 1977. Gray was also a key part of the offensive line that paved the way for the team to rush for 3,165 yards, a mark which remains an NFL record. He was named an All-Pro and Pro Bowler that season.
Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest were both eligible for induction this year but were did not make the selection committee’s cut.
Whichever man comes out on top in voting this year will join broadcaster Gil Santos as this year’s induction class – Robert Kraft announced at the end of last season that Santos, who was the radio voice of the Patriots for 36 years before retiring at the end of the 2012 season, would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Voting begins today at patriots.com and runs through May 15.