Each year the members of the committee are asked to select their top three among those nominated and the fans are then tasked with picking a winner. To me, this was a slam dunk with Ty Law entering into his first year of eligibility.
Law was a true game-changer in every sense of the word. His ability to shut down half the field with his physical style was an integral part of the Patriots success during the most fruitful period in team history. He was best when it mattered most, whether it was his three-pick performance against Peyton Manning’s Colts in 2003 or his pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Since we are required to offer three nominees, I also chose Raymond Clayborn and Chuck Fairbanks for my picks. Both hold a lot of sentimental value to me based on my childhood watching some truly talented and underappreciated teams in the mid-1970s.
Fairbanks was the architect of those teams as the coach and general manager from 1973-78. He drafted the likes of John Hannah, Sam Cunningham, Darryl Stingley, Steve Nelson, Russ Francis, Steve Grogan, Mike Haynes, Stanley Morgan and Clayborn among others, taking the 1976 and ’78 teams to the playoffs.
Clayborn, a cornerback with the Patriots from 1977-89, is tied with Law for the all-time team lead in interceptions with 36. He was also a prolific kickoff returner and went to three Pro Bowls while anchoring the secondary during the run to Super Bowl XX.
Both are more than worthy of consideration, but to me fall well behind Law. The Patriots media relations department will tabulate the committee’s votes and the three finalists will be announced April 15 on Patriots.com and voting will run through May 15.