In a rare celebration of individual achievement, on Friday the New England Patriots publicly presented wide receiver Troy Brown with a game ball for his record-breaking 535th career catch as a Patriot.
"We don't recognize individual achievements normally at the Patriots, but Troy would have gotten the game ball, had we won, after the Colts game," said Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft, who was joined by former Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan. "We tried to create a different scenario that would allow us to celebrate what's been good about the Patriots history and that would allow us to bring Stanley 'Steamer' back."
The two record-setting Patriots receivers stood on either side of the proud owner, each of them smiling from ear to ear.
"For me, both of these individuals are special," said Kraft. "I had looked forward to awarding Troy with a game ball, because he's the only player on the team that has been here for 14 years. I was sitting in the stands the first year he was in the league.
"He's the prototype Patriot: selfless, offense, defense, special teams. He never did fancy dances, just did what's right both on and off the field," Kraft beamed. "Stanley Morgan was the same kind of guy. He was with the team for 13 years. He was one of the half-a-dozen that I personally rooted for very strongly. He always was very classy and represented what the Patriot brand was always about. We're really privileged to have him come back here this weekend with his lovely wife. He'll be doing the coin toss and being an honorary captain [before the Jets game]."
Morgan thanked Kraft for the invitation before speaking about the record.
"The thing that they tell you is, 'Records are made to be broken.' You don't really understand that until it actually happens," said Morgan.
Morgan said he spoke to Brown a few years back, when Brown began to close on the record.
"I told him if anybody was going to break it, I would be very proud if it was him. We're almost identical on the football field. I think the only difference is I might be a step faster," joked the retired Patriot, playing to the crowd of reporters and camerapersons. "Troy reminds me so much of myself. Whatever the coaches would tell him, he'd go out and do it. No questions asked. That's the type of player I was.
"Without further ado, Troy, I'd like to congratulate you on breaking a great record and I hope you hold it for 20-something years, too. Congratulations."
Then, Morgan presented the football with Brown's name and the record-breaking date printed on it. The two shared a hug before Brown stepped up to the microphone.
"I want to thank Mr. Kraft and Stanley for the kind words they just gave me about the way I go out and play the game," said the longest tenured active player on the team. I take a lot of pride in the way I do go out there and play, and represent not only myself and my family, but I do represent the Kraft family and this organization also. I always try to set the right example and show my teammates the right way to go out and play the game. I do appreciate those kind words that they just gave me.
This is the eighth Patriots record Brown has set in his long New England career, though he admitted he doesn't think Morgan's other major records will ever be broken.
In 13 seasons with the Patriots, Morgan set team records in yards (10,352), touchdowns (67), and averaged 19.4 yards per catch during his career – a stat Brown said is representative of Morgan's ability.
"I don't foresee anybody else averaging almost 20 yards per catch," said Brown, who averages 11.6 yards per reception, himself. "It's rare to see guys do that in a single season. To have a guy do it over his whole entire career will tell you a lot about the kind of player he was on the football field."
As an added bonus, Kraft brought Morgan and Brown, along with the media into the main lobby at Gillette Stadium to unveil two pieces of glass art, made by world-renowned French glassblower Jean-Claude Novaro. The art, two life-sized statues, represents Tom Brady throwing Brown a pass. Novaro and his wife were also on hand for the unveiling.