While already collectively boasting numerous franchise records, several trips to the Pro Bowl, extensive lists of seasonal accolades and multiple Super Bowl rings, eight former New England Patriots are one step closer to showcasing a gold jacket at the center of their collections of trophies and triumphs.
Among the list of 94 nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017 was a group of Pats of the past – cornerback Ty Law, linebackers Tedy Bruschiand Willie McGinest, quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Doug Flutie, safety Rodney Harrison, nose tackle Fred Smerlas and wide receiver Chad Johnson – the Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.
Come November, the list of 94 will be trimmed to 25 semifinalists before it's narrowed down to 15 finalists in January. The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet to officially elect the Class of 2017 in Houston, Texas on the eve of Super Bowl LI, but in the meantime, the franchise from Foxborough is certainly well represented among next year's candidates for Canton.
One former Patriot surely deserving of the honor is Law, who spent 10 seasons of his 15-year career in New England after joining the team as a first-round draft pick out of Michigan in 1995. Over the course of the decade-and-a-half he played in the NFL, Law totaled 59 interceptions, returning seven for touchdowns, and amassed over 700 tackles. Six of his career interceptions came in the postseason, a feat that ranks 10th among postseason interception leaders in league history. Law also led the league in season interceptions twice during his career with nine in 1998 and 10 in 2005. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro won three Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, but was best known for his role in the team's first. With 8:58 left in the second quarter, Law intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to give New England its first points of the game before going on to win, 20-17.
In honor of former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi's birthday check out the best photos from his 13-year career.
Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career in New England and captained the Patriots for five seasons, playing a major leadership role both on and off the field. He was originally drafted by the team in third round of the 1996 NFL Draft and led New England to nearly a dozen winning seasons. In 2004, he co-captained a Patriots defense that allowed 16.25 points per game, ranking as the third fewest in franchise history. The 2004 Pro-Bowler is tied for fourth in NFL history among linebackers who have returned for multiple interceptions for scores in a single season. Bruschi did so twice (2002 and 2003). He is also the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns, and in 2005, Bruschi was honored with the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after suffering a stroke and sitting out part of the season before returning to the playing field at the end of October.
The face of the Patriots franchise for nearly a decade, former quarterback Bledsoe also received a nomination for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. Bledsoe spent nine of his 14 NFL seasons with the Patriots after he was selected as the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. During his time in New England, Bledsoe broke the team's career passing records for attempts (4,518), completions (2,544) and yards (29,657), and still holds the Patriots' single-season passing record for attempts with 691, a number that currently ranks second-all time across the league. The three-time Pro Bowler also still holds the NFL record for both attempts and completions in a single game after going 45-of-70 with no interceptions against Minnesota in 1994. Bledsoe also became the first quarterback in NFL history with four seasons of 600+ pass attempts.
McGinest played 12 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Patriots and won three Super Bowl championships with the team. The two-time Pro Bowler ranks third in team history with 78 sacks in a red, white and blue uniform, and he also holds the NFL record for most career postseason sacks with 16. Over the course of his 15 seasons in the league, McGinest recorded 86 total sacks and over 500 tackles.
Harrison joined the Patriots secondary after spending the first nine seasons of his career in San Diego, and played in New England for six additional years. He amassed over 900 tackles and 34 interceptions over his 15-year NFL career and his 30.5 sacks rank as the most by a defensive back in NFL history. Harrison was a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the Patriots. The three-time All-Pro selection is also tied for sixth among postseason interception leaders with seven.
Flutie played quarterback for the Patriots during four of his 12 NFL seasons. Over the course of his career, he started 66 games, completed 1,177 passes for 14,715 yards with 86 touchdowns. He was a Pro-Bowler in 1998 and earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in the same season after returning to the NFL after eight seasons in the Canadian Football League.
Smerlas spent the final two seasons of his 14-year NFL career with the Patriots. He was originally drafted in 1979 by the Buffalo Bills and spent 11 seasons there before playing a year in San Francisco, and eventually ending up in New England. He totaled 18.5 sacks in 200 appearances during his time in the league.
Johnson, also known for a time as Chad Ochocinco, was originally selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round (36th overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft. He spent 10 years with the Bengals before playing his final season in New England in 2011. Over the course of his career, Johnson totaled 766 receptions and 67 touchdowns. In 2006, he led the league in pass reception yards with 1,369 on 87 catches. He is a six-time Pro-Bowler and four-time All-Pro.