Earlier today, the Patriots announced the three finalists for induction into the franchise Hall of Fame this year, and this afternoon the man considered the odds-on favorite to win the fan vote for induction, Drew Bledsoe, took part in a conference call.
Now focused primarily on his Doubeback winery, which presented its first vintage last year to rave reviews, Bledsoe received a call yesterday from Robert Kraft informing him that he was a finalist, but the call went to voicemail and Bledsoe hasn’t yet spoken to the Pats’ owner directly about the honor.
Here are some highlights from the call:
On some of his favorite memories with the Patriots
“Trying to cycle through my favorite memories is a big data pack, obviously, but there are some specifics that stand out. First of all, just when I was drafted and came up to New England for the first time and the welcome I received with my family. You’ve got the small town kid from Walla Walla (Washington) moving across the country and being installed as a figurehead of an organization. It was pretty heady times, but the welcome I received and that we received just that first day when we came up was a bit overwhelming.
“Then flashing forward, that rookie year – I’ve said a number of times that it was a little bit like sticking your head in a popcorn machine; everything was happening so fast…But to finish that first season winning four in a row and to beat the Dolphins on the last play of the season to knock them out of the playoffs, that was a memory that certainly clearly stands out.
“In ’94, the game against the Vikings stands out. I remember I never was –and still to this day am not — a very superstitious person. But I remember at halftime of the Vikings game or just before the half, I think it was, actually, I was having problems with my shoes, so I went and changed my shoes to a different pair of cleats. And from then on we seemed to get pretty hot, so I got pretty attached to those cleats and wore them for the rest of the season, and we went on to win seven in a row and make the playoffs for the first time.
“1996 obviously stands out – multiple games from 1996. Beating the Steelers in Foxborough in the fog and somehow being underdogs at home but coming out and beating the Steelers in a pretty convincing fashion. I’ll always remember the first play of that game; I went deep with Terry Glenn right by Rod Woodson for almost a touchdown. I’ll still never forgive Terry for not getting in the end zone on that first play…And then winning the AFC Championship game in Foxborough to go to the Super Bowl is a poignant memory in my mind.
“Then moving beyond that, there were a ton of games that stand out after that, but certainly one that will always be ingrained in my mind was when I got to finally come back in and play against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh when Tommy [Brady] sprained his ankle. That’s a memory that I will take with me forever and ever; to be able to come back in after not playing and to help our team to win that game to get to another Super Bowl is a memory that will always stick with me. When I think, from a broader sense, about my time with the Patriots, I just have extremely fond memories. Obviously there were ups and downs that go with any career – particularly when you’re playing quarterback – but the memories I have are only fond ones. The fans in New England were always so supportive and passionate in their support of me and the Patriots while I was there. It was a pretty magical thing to be a part of.”
On playing for fellow 2011 finalist not once, but twice – in New England and, at the end of his career, in Dallas:
“I was a glutton for punishment. I went back for more. It was a petty rare thing when I was drafted to come to an organization that had not had much success but all of a sudden had a Super Bowl-winning coach on the sidelines. That was very fortuitous for me and for the organization to have a coach of his stature come in, even when there hadn’t been much success, but instantly there seemed to be a sense of optimism and Bill was certainly a part of that. Bill’s record is what it is. He’s a fantastic coach. He was great at rebuilding franchises. He did it numerous times. I’m proud to say I played for him.”
On how closely he still follows the Patriots:
“You know, I watch some football. My kids play their football games on Sundays in the Fall, so those days are pretty tied up, but I do follow reasonably closely what’s going on. What the Patriots have done and what (Bill) Belichick has done and what Robert Kraft and his family have done with that organization is really pretty amazing. Honestly, in this day and age when the league is pushing for parity, to have a run like they’ve had where they’ve just year after year after year are able to not rebuild but reload and maintain such a high level of success is really pretty amazing…I’ve been very, very impressed with what Tommy and Belichick and the whole organization has been able to do. You tend to see in the league teams rise up for a year or two years and then go by the wayside for a few years, and the Patriots have been able to maintain that extremely high level of success for a long time now. It’s really been pretty amazing to watch.”