The setting sun was still high in the sky and the clouds that had been lingering for the past few days finally dispersed, setting the stage for the moment the people gathered in Foxborough on a Monday afternoon were all waiting for: the induction of Tedy Bruschi and Gil Santos into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft introduced Bruschi, noting that the assembly was by far the largest in Patriots Hall history.
“With a name like Bruschi,” Kraft continued, “I knew he would become a fan favorite.”
Bruschi was famous in the Patriots locker room for gathering his teammates after a win and saying: “How do you feel about...” and filling in the blank with a specific result, such as “How do you feel about making NFL history?” His teammates would respond, “Awwwwww….YEAH!”
Kraft borrowed Bruschi’s post-game catchphrase when he asked the crowd, “How do you feel about Tedy Bruschi being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame?”
“Awwwww… YEAH!!!” they yelled in unison, to Bruschi’s obvious delight.
When he took the mic, Bruschi admired his bright red Patriots Hall sports coat.
“It’s a nice jacket, but the goal on the teams I played on was never the red jacket. It was the free hats and t-shirts,” he said, referencing the clothing given to NFL players when they win championships.
The linebacker, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, took fans on a journey through his football career, starting with the first tackle he ever made – against his father – in a park in San Francisco when he was a child.
“Football came naturally… let me check that, defensive football came naturally to me. I was never much of a quarterback or receiver, but wrapping my arms around a guy and throwing him to the ground, that came naturally.”
His late father always told Bruschi he’d be an inside linebacker, and Bruschi admitted he never believed him.
“I’m going to say something that I should have said to him when he was alive, but I’ll say it to him now in front of all of you: Dad, you were right.”
Bruschi thanked his late mother, Juanita, for passing down her intensity to him.
“My mother could look Bill Belichick in the eye and he would crumble,” said Bruschi, drawing huge laughs from the crowd.
Saying he wasn’t much of a “stat guy,” Bruschi admitted to being proud of one statistic in particular: 366, the number of tackles he made after returning to the field following a stroke.
Finally, he thanked Patriots fans.
“Two words describe you: passion and pressure. I love your passion, and I respect the pressure you put on me.”
Earlier in the ceremony, a clearly emotional Santos, his voice wavering throughout his acceptance speech, was introduced eloquently by Patriots President Jonathan Kraft.
Santos started off by thanking several people, including his family and closest friends, as well as Robert Kraft.
“Today, quite frankly, is the high point of my broadcast career,” Santos told the crowd, the size of which took Santos aback.
“[Calling Patriots games] was never a job. It was an honor, a privilege.”
He then told three humorous anecdotes about his life. The first was about not learning to speak English (his parents were from Portugal) until 1st grade.
“It’s ironic now that I’m being inducted into the Hall of Fame for my ability to speak English,” he joked.
Santos recalled being a boy in Fairhaven, Mass., watching Mel Allen call a Rose Bowl game on television.
“I looked out the window and it was snowing, and Mel is saying, ‘Welcome to sunny Southern California. Temps are in the mid-80s. It’s a great day for football.’ And I said, ‘That’s the job I want!’”
He closed by remembering an article he’d read, the end of which asked the readers if they could sum up their lives in just six words.
“I can,” Santos declared.
“I… am… a… very… lucky… man.”
As the event drew to a close, Bruschi said it would take a while for him to get used to his new red jacket, because he wasn’t used to being singled out in a team game.
“But I look forward,” he concluded, “to welcoming many more of my teammates to the Hall in the years to come.”