The Patriots will have former defensive end and linebacker Willie McGinest as an honorary captain this Sunday for their AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos.
McGinest, who played the first 12 years of his 15-year NFL career in New England, will join former Bronco Rod Smith on the field for the game’s coin toss.
This sort of ceremonial gesture for former players are usually a precursor to something more, like recognizing a player in a franchise’s hall of fame. Smith was inducted to the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 2012. McGinest’s former teammate Tedy Bruschi was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013. Bruschi had participated in a Patriots coin toss in 2010 during a day in his honor. So while it is a warm gesture for McGinest, it may mean something more later down the road. And seeing how he finished his career in 2008, he’s already eligible to be inducted.
“First and foremost it is an honor and I am humbled by it,” McGinest said in a teleconference with reporters Thursday. “Especially because for all the other great Patriots that played alongside me and I played with, just the respect and the professionalism Mr. [Robert] Kraft showed me, giving me my opportunity to come into an organization and help be a part of one of the blocks, one of the building blocks of creating what it is today. I take a lot of pride in that.
“One of the things is, I always messed with Mr. Kraft especially this year in the Thursday Night Football game I was giving him my measurements for my jacket size when we had Tedy Bruschi on set,” McGinest continued. “I’m sure it will come. I understand how things work. But I’m more than honored and happy for being a captain and the jackets and all that stuff will come. Me and Mr. Kraft, we had conversations about that. I’m excited. I’m excited for the guys that have already been inducted. Those guys, they put a lot of work, sacrifice, and commitment into that organization and I was happy for Tedy. I was able to be there to introduce him, have some fun with him. But I am sure my time is coming. I’m patient.”
As the team’s first draft pick under Robert Kraft’s ownership in 1994, and beloved by fans, there is certainly a sizable amount of sentimentality for McGinest. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, was named to two Pro Bowls, and had 86 career sacks (78 in New England). His enshrinement at The Hall at Patriot Place may come sooner than even he believes.