The finalists for this year's Patriots Hall of Fame were announced earlier this morning with Ty Law, Raymond Clayborn and Bill Parcells making the cut.
It's an interesting group that is intertwined with the two cornerbacks tied atop the team's all-time list for career interceptions as well as the coach who drafted Law and in many ways helped save the franchise.
The two corners spoke via conference call Wednesday afternoon and Clayborn's reaction to the news drew chuckles from the media.
"Why did it take so long?" he said before admitting he was honored to be considered with such all-time luminaries. Law also expressed his gratitude on being recognized.
"I was speechless. When I got the call from [vice president of media and community relations] Stacey [James] that was the last thing I expected. I was pretty much in shock," Law said.
"It would mean a lot. It will put the icing on the cake as far as my playing career with the Patriots. To be appreciated by the fans, they still care for me and it would put a stamp of approval from Patriots Nation. I'm really humbled by that and to be with Raymond Clayborn and Bill Parcells. I'm honored just to be considered."
One of the three will be inducted into the Hall later this year based on a fan vote on Patriots.com that will run through May 15.
Law spent 10 seasons with the Patriots (1995-2004), was a three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Pro Bowler (1998, 2001-03) and a two-time All-Pro (1998, 2003). He also has a close connection to Patriots free agent corner Darrelle Revis that dates back to their childhood days in Alaquippa, Pa.
He's followed the Patriots corner since Revis was playing Pop Warner, and even enjoyed a stint playing alongside him with the Jets in 2008. He believes the team has significantly upgraded the position.
"No disrespect to Aqib Talib but Darrelle is a special talent," Law said. "You're getting a person who's not afraid of putting it on the line. He wants to cover that top guy game in and game out. That's the mark of true competitor. To be so talented and to practice so hard – you don't see a lot of young guys doing that. That's what separates Darrelle. He's there to prove he's the best week in and week out. I've never seen anyone as competitive as Darrelle Revis and that's the honest to God truth."
Clayborn was drafted in the first round by the Patriots in 1977 and spent 13 seasons in New England. He was a three-time Pro Bowler (1983, 1985-86) and his 36 career interceptions tie with Law for the top spot in team annals, although he says if Law wasn't injured early in his final season with the team he wouldn't share the mark.
"We had good teams. We just couldn't get to the point of being a perennial playoff team," Clayborn said of his talented teams of the late-1970s. "One of the things was Darryl Stingley got injured and everybody was focused and then Darryl got hurt and that hit us really hard. We had the talent to go to and win a Super Bowl in '77, '78, '79 … and Darryl getting injured that really hit us right in our hearts. He was such a leader who we all looked up to."
Parcells served as head coach from 1993-96, inheriting a team that had finished 14-50 in the previous four years, including an NFL worst 2-14 season in 1992. He led the team to the playoffs twice, including a trip to Super Bowl XXXI. He chose Drew Bledsoe with the first overall pick in 1993, and then watched Robert Kraft save the franchise from a potential move to St. Louis the following year. Together that trio helped put the Patriots on the map in New England.