If God isn't a Patriots fan, Mother Nature just might be. Because every time the Patriots induct a new member into the Hall at Patriot Place, the weather for the outdoor ceremony is absolutely gorgeous.
That was the case once again this year when the four-time Super Bowl champions welcomed the 24th member of the Hall, former outside linebacker Willie McGinest, a member of three of those title-winning teams. McGinest was recognized along with defensive lineman Houston Antwine, who was chosen posthumously by the senior selection committee as the 23rd member of the Hall.
Long-time Patriots center Jon Morris, another Hall inductee, was asked to speak and accept on behalf of Antwine, who died in 2011.
Check out our favorite photos from Willie McGinest and Houston Antwine's induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Wednesday, August 5, 2015.
"I know I speak for 'Twine, if he were here, he'd say this is the highest honor of his life," Morris told the overflow crowd in the plaza outside the Hall. Morris also made the case that Antwine should be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, before recalling him as not only a teammate, but also a friend.
"Thank you for taking me under your wing when I was a rookie… You may have weighed 275 pounds, but you were always a perfect gentleman. Rest in peace my good friend."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was next at the podium and recalled watching Antwine play when Kraft was just a fan sitting in the stands of the old Schaefer Stadium. Kraft then introduced McGinest, joking that McGinest still looks in good enough physical shape to play a few more NFL snaps.
"I'm thinking we should sign him up again," Kraft said, and the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause.
Calling him "my proverbial first-born," Kraft also noted that McGinest was the first draft choice in Patriots history under the Kraft family's ownership.
"Willie has been a significant part of this family," Kraft asserted. He noted that McGinest ended his NFL career in Cleveland, and "that left a bad taste in my mouth." Kraft then made the unprecedented offer of a ceremonial contract to allow McGinest to put on his old No. 55 jersey one last time.
"Before I sign," McGinest joked, "how much?"
"Not enough, not enough," laughed Kraft.
McGinest kept the jersey on as Kraft helped him into his new Patriots Hall of Fame red blazer.
"In the words of my mom, Joyce McGinest, 'It's about damn time!'" the player quipped when he finally stepped to the microphone, pointing to his mother sitting in the front row.
McGinest thanked many of his former youth and college coaches, as well as former teammates from the Patriots Super Bowl teams. He spent considerable time, though, pointing out former linebacker Chris Slade for helping him, a California native, make the transition to NFL life in New England under then-coach Bill Parcells.
McGinest told a comical anecdote about when he was drafted. All signs seemed to indicate that McGinest was going to be selected by Dallas. When the phone rang, McGinest assumed it was the Cowboys, but it was Parcells, who said, "Are you ready to play football, son?"
"Yeah, sure Jerry," McGinest recalled saying, thinking it was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
McGinest thanked Parcells and Pete Carroll, his first two head coaches in the NFL, before saving a special place for the current Patriots boss, Bill Belichick.
"He will go down as the greatest coach in NFL history, I promise you," McGinest told the crowd.
"Parcells gave me birth, Carroll gave me my adolescent years, and Bill made me a man."
He then talked about his "step-father," Robert Kraft.
"I tell the guys today, you're the luckiest players in the NFL because you have an owner who gives you every resource to do your job."
Turning to Kraft, he added, "I love you, and thank you for loving me unconditionally and for being a huge part of my success in life."
After thanking his football family, McGinest mentioned his actual family: mother and father, both of whom were in attendance, his sisters (who could not be there), as well as his wife and three daughters.
When McGinest concluded his remarks, Belichick made a surprise appearance on the stage.
The head coach told three of his favorite stories about McGinest, including how he planned on drafting McGinest when he was head coach in Cleveland, but "Parcells beat me to it."
He recalled how McGinest's locker in Gillette Stadium was in a prominent place at the entrance of the room that left no doubt about the player's stature as a leader on the team.
"If a guy was out of line or not doing the right thing, Willie would just give him that look," Belichick told the crowd. "It was an awesome, awesome display of leadership."
Belichick shared stories about McGinest after the famous goal-line stand game at Indianapolis and a humorous tale about taking a photo with McGinest's friend, the rap recording artist Snoop Dogg.
With that, Belichick closed by saying, "Willie meant so much to our football team… It was an honor and a pleasure to coach you… you look good in red."
It has become tradition at these ceremonies to invite several of the inductee's former teammates to engage in a roundtable discussion to share memories of their time on and off the field with the honoree. McGinest's panel included Slade, former defensive lineman Richard Seymour, former Roman Phifer, cornerback Ty Law, and wide receiver Troy Brown. The panel was moderated by former QB and current radio color analyst Scott Zolak. PFW