FOXBOROUGH – Monday was a special day at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots welcomed their two newest members to the team’s Hall of Fame: linebacker Tedy Bruschi and longtime radio play-by-play announcer Gil Santos.
Bruschi and Santos were officially inducted in a ceremony outside The Hall at Patriot Place. Gillette Stadium PA announcer John Rooke was the master of ceremonies, and welcomed everyone in attendance with the presentation of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl trophies and a parade of Patriots alumni and Hall of Fame members, including Gino Cappelletti, Steve Nelson, Andre Tippett, and Troy Brown.
Santos was honored for his 36 seasons as the “Voice of the Patriots,” calling 745 Patriots games over his broadcast career, missing just one game, a preseason game in 1971 to attend the funeral of his father. He called all three Super Bowl championships won by New England in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
“When I was a little boy, my mother used to tell my brothers and I that we had to get up at 7 o clock for school,” said Patriots president Jonathan Kraft. “But I used to set my alarm, starting when I was 8 when I got a clock radio for 6:44 a.m., and the reason I set my clock for 6:44 a.m. was… I used to get my sports news from Gil Santos at quarter of the hour and at 7:15 on WBZ AM.”
“Gil wasn’t just the voice of sports for me, he was the voice of my favorite team, the New England Patriots, and when my dad started bringing myself and my brother Danny to the games, we all used to have transistor radios,” Jonathan added. “We used to sit in the stands and listen to Gil’s voice, that amazing voice of power and authority, but also warmth. He welcomed you in, you felt like you were listening to a member of your family, and he knew the game of football and with his amazing partner Gino, they told the story of the Patriots for many, many, many years.”
After being introduced by Jonathan Kraft, Santos was given his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket, then thanked everyone who helped him reach this point, as well as sharing some of his favorite memories in his life and as broadcaster of the Patriots for so many years.
“Today, quite frankly, is the high point of my broadcast career of more than 50 years, to be elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame,” said Santos. “Let me assure you, it was never a job; it was an honor, it was a privilege, and I am delighted to have been able to do it for all of that time.”
“No one gets into any hall of fame anywhere by himself,” he said. “You have to be part of something, and we were part of a broadcast team, and we had a lot of fun describing a lot of games that came up with three Super Bowl championships.”
Santos also shared a story that many fans might not know about him: how he was a first-generation American and did not learn how to speak English until he was in grade school.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t learn how to speak English until just before I went to the first grade, because my grandfather lived with us and he didn’t speak English, so in the house we spoke Portuguese,” he said. “I find it ironic, that 60-some-odd-years later I am going into the Patriots Hall of Fame for my ability to speak English.”
Closing his speech, Santos left the crowd with a final statement about how he sums up his career, and life.
“A couple of years ago I was reading an article about life in general … the gentleman who wrote the article posed the question ‘Can you sum up your life in six words?’ he said. “I thought about that for about 10 seconds and I said absolutely, I can sum up my life in six words: ‘I am a very lucky man.’”
After Santos, it was time for one of the most popular players in Patriots history to receive his red Hall of Fame jacket, as owner Robert Kraft introduced Bruschi to fanatical applause and the loud “BRRUUUUUUU” chants from the fans.
“Our next honoree played a significant role on some of our greatest teams,” said Robert Kraft. “With a name like ‘Bruschi,’ I knew that the day we drafted him, he was going to become an instant fan favorite in New England … but what I didn’t know was through his own hard work, guided determination, and remarkable resiliency, he would become one of the most iconic players in franchise history.”
“For more than a decade, he was the heart and soul of the Patriots defense,” Kraft added. “It’s no coincidence that during that decade the Patriots enjoying the most successful era of any team in NFL history.”
In his 13 seasons with the Patriots, Bruschi was a seven-time team captain, a two-time All-Pro linebacker, and helped the Patriots win eight division titles, make five Super Bowl appearances, and win three Super Bowls.
“On the teams that I played [on]… the Red Jackets were never the goal, free hats and T-shirts were,” said Bruschi. “The free hats and T-shirts that said you did something: that said you won an AFC East divisional championship, or a conference championship, and hopefully you got that third set, that free hat and T-shirt that said world champion, and we got to do that three times.”
Bruschi attributes a large amount of his success to what he was taught by Bill Belichick, who coached the linebacker from 2000 through the end of his career.
“Coach Belichick had this easy way of making the complex very simple,” said Bruschi. “When it came down to coaching a player individually, he would make it like it was black and white I think that was a part of his genius, a part of why he succeeded so well; teaching football to players in a way that they could learn it.”
“When you play under Bill Belichick, you hear ‘Do your job, do your job.’ I think what we did was we took ‘doing your job’ to the next level, because I always believed it was this … do your job first, do your job first and once you got that down help someone else do their job better.”
Bruschi feels his biggest accomplishment was in 2005, when he came back from suffering a stroke to get back to the game that he loved.
“I remember the comeback game, right here in [Gillette Stadium], if only you knew what was going on in my helmet in my head at that time,” he said. “I ended up playing four more years. I am not a stat guy … but one number sticks out in my mind; its 366. 366 tackles that I made as a stroke survivor. You [the fans] helped me feel the way that it took me a long time to feel and to say this: that I am proud to be a stroke survivor.”
Bruschi ended with a story about a game in his rookie year in 1996, when he dropped a pass on a punt fake that cost the Patriots a victory in Denver, which was headlined in a local newspaper the next day, and how he used that game as motivation to succeed for the rest of his career.
“I saw that article for the next 10 years,” he said. “I looked at it occasionally, and I told myself I would never be that guy again; I would never be that guy that caused this team to lose, and I never was again.”