FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots held their annual Hall of Fame nomination committee meeting today to select this year’s candidates for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Before that meeting, a 10-person senior selection committee met to discuss Hall of Fame contenders that have been retired for at least 25 years and selected offensive tackle Leon Gray (1973-78) to the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Gray was a third-round draft pick in 1973 by the Miami Dolphins as an offensive tackle out of Jackson State. He was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. By the 1976 season, he was viewed as arguably the best left tackle in the game. He was a key member of an offensive line that allowed a franchise-low 14 sacks in 1977. Gray teamed with Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah to form what is generally considered one of the best guard/tackle tandems in NFL history. At the end of the 1976 season, Gray was selected to play in the Pro Bowl – the first of two such honors as a Patriot and the first of four trips to the Pro Bowl during his 11-year NFL career.
In 1976, Gray helped power a Patriots rushing game that averaged 210.6 yards per game (which remains a franchise record) and led the Patriots to their first 11-win season in franchise history. In 1978, Gray once again paved the way as the Patriots surpassed their season rushing record with 3,165 yards, an NFL record that still stands 41 years later. Gray was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly and the PFWA. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time. After six seasons with the Patriots, Gray finished his career with Houston (1979-81) and New Orleans (1982-83). Sadly, Gray died in November of 2001 at the age of 49.
Gray was a finalist for Patriots Hall of Fame consideration in 2013 and 2015. He is the third Patriots Hall of Fame inductee to be selected by the senior selection committee. Center Jon Morris was elected by that committee in 2011 and Houston Antwine was selected in 2015.
Gray will be inducted along with one of the 2019 Patriots Hall of Fame finalists in a ceremony later this year. The three 2019 Hall of Fame finalists will be revealed online at www.patriots.com next week. Fans will have one month to vote for the finalist they believe is most deserving of induction. The Patriots are the only NFL team that includes their fans in the voting process and gives them the responsibility of making the annual selection.
A 10-person senior selection committee, consisting of some of the longest tenured Patriots beat writers and staff, was approved by Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft to ensure that early-era players who are deserving of Patriots Hall of Fame induction are given that consideration.
The senior selection committee met today for the fourth time in the 13 years of the current induction process to discuss early-era candidates for the Patriots Hall of Fame. Induction of a candidate is not automatic or mandatory and is limited to no more than one inductee each meeting. Candidates must be retired for at least 25 years to be eligible for senior selection committee consideration. Previous finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame who have been retired for at least 25 years are automatically eligible for consideration. The early-era candidate must be approved by a minimum vote of 80 percent of the senior selection committee to be selected for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Since 2007, a committee consisting of media, staff and alumni has gathered annually to discuss Patriots players who are eligible and deserving of Hall of Fame induction. Any player or head coach who has been out of the NFL for at least four years is eligible. Once the presentations are completed, the committee votes and the top three candidates, based on total points, are presented as that year’s nominations for induction. Fans are then given an opportunity to vote for the player they feel is most deserving of the team’s highest honor. Once selected, the Patriots Hall of Famer receives a formal induction ceremony held just outside the Patriots Hall of Fame presented by Raytheon. The date and time of this year’s induction ceremony will be announced at a later date.
Check out our favorite photos of former Patriots T Leon Gray (1973-78), who was select to the Patriots Hall of Fame for induction in 2019.