FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots announced that three-time finalist C Jon Morris, two-time finalist DT Houston Antwine and FB Sam Cunningham have been selected by this year's nomination committee as the three finalists for 2010 induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Starting today, Patriots fans will have an opportunity to vote online for the player they feel is most deserving for Hall of Fame enshrinement. The New England Patriots are the only team in the NFL to allow their fans the opportunity to select their Hall of Famers. On-line voting will conclude on May 31, 2010. The team will announce the fans' selection in mid-June and will formally induct the player into the Patriots Hall of Fame prior to the preseason home opener on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010.
For Jon Morris, this is the third consecutive year he has been selected as a Patriots Hall of Fame finalist. He played for the Patriots for 11 seasons, appearing in 130 games from 1964-74. The Holy Cross product was originally drafted by Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers in the second round (27th overall) of the 1964 NFL Draft, but he elected to sign with the hometown Boston Patriots instead after they selected him in the fourth round (29th overall) of the 1964 AFL Draft. He earned Patriots' Rookie of the Year honors in 1964 and was named the team's "Unsung Hero" the following season. In his first six seasons in the league, he was named an AFL All-Star. In 1970, after the AFL merged with the NFL, he joined the Raiders' Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Otto as the two centers to represent the AFC at the Pro Bowl. He was the only Patriot to be selected that year and the first Patriot to ever earn the honor of attending the NFL Pro Bowl. Those seven league All-Star selections rank second in Patriots history behind Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah (9). Morris anchored an offensive line that opened holes for last year's Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Nance, to amass a team-record 45 rushing touchdowns from 1965-71. After his Patriots career, he played three seasons with the Detroit Lions and one with the Chicago Bears before retiring after 15 seasons in the NFL. After his playing career, Morris provided color commentary on the radio broadcasts for the Patriots from 1979 to 1987. In 2009, Morris was selected as the only center on the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team.
For Houston Antwine, this is his second season to earn the honor of being named one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame. Like Morris, he also played for the Patriots for 11 seasons, appearing in 142 games from 1961-71. He was originally drafted in 1961 by the Detroit Lions of the NFL and the Houston Oilers of the AFL. He was acquired by the Patriots on Oct. 9, 1961 in exchange for a third round selection in the 1962 AFL Draft. A former NAIA wrestling champion, "Twine" was a force in the middle of the Patriots' defensive line. He led the Patriots in sacks three consecutive seasons; 1967, 1968 and 1969. His 39.0 career sacks still rank 10th in franchise history. He also recorded four fumbles and an interception during his career. Antwine earned six consecutive American Football League (AFL) All-Star selections from 1963-68. His six all-star appearances are tied for the third highest total in franchise history. He also earned first-team All-Pro honors. Described as athletic and very quick on his feet, Pro Football Hall of Famers Billy Shaw said just last year that "Houston Antwine was the best defensive tackle I ever played against in the AFL." In 2009, Antwine was selected as one of two defensive tackles on the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team.
For Sam Cunningham, this is his first year to be named a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. He played fullback for nine seasons with the New England Patriots (1973-79, 81-82) and was affectionately known as Sam "Bam" Cunningham throughout his Patriots' career. He was originally drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft with the 11th overall selection. He surpassed last year's Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Nance, to become the franchise's all-time leading rusher in 1981 and finished his career rushing 1,385 times for 5,453 yards (3.9 avg.) and 43 touchdowns. He added 210 career receptions for another 1,905 yards and six touchdowns. His 49 career touchdowns still rank third in franchise history. He led the team in rushing six times in his nine seasons, peaking in 1977 with 1,015 yards (in 14 games) on 270 carries. That year, he also led the team with 42 receptions for another 370 yards. The following year, Cunningham led a Patriots assault on the NFL record books, as the team set an NFL rushing record by amassing 3,165 yards, a record that has not been broken in 31 years. Cunningham led a bevy of backs that season with 768 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 199 carries. Following the 1978 season, he was named to the NFL Pro Bowl. In 2009, Cunningham was selected as one of two running backs on the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team.
Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new Hall of Fame tradition, inducting one player or head coach into The Hall each year. The process for induction now involves a panel of media, alumni and staff, who collectively nominate the players or head coaches the committee deems most deserving of induction. After the nominations are made, the committee votes and the top three tallies become that year's finalists. The Patriots then give their fans the opportunity to vote online to select each year's winner.
On March 15, a 22-person nomination committee met at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon to discuss this year's candidates for induction and to select the Patriots' most recent all-decade team.
Fans are encouraged to vote any time between now and May 31, 2010. Voters will be limited to one vote per computer IP address. The player receiving the most votes will become the 15th player named to the Patriots Hall of Fame and will be inducted in a ceremony prior to the Patriots' 2010 home opener when they host the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Aug. 12.
About the Patriots Hall of Fame **
The Patriots Hall of Fame was officially formed in 1991 after John Hannah became the first Patriots player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Prior to 1991, the only honor bestowed a former player was to retire the player's number. With the Hall of Fame, the Patriots created a new way of honoring their greatest players. But it wasn't until 2008, with the opening of The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, that Patriots players, past and present, truly had a place to preserve the legacy of the franchise that could be shared with their fans. Now, enshrinement into The Hall is an honor befitting of the franchise's greatest players, with 30-foot video pylons displaying each enshrinee.
Patriots fans are now a part of the Hall of Fame tradition and active participants in the selection process. In the first year of the new Hall of Fame voting process, the Hall of Fame nomination committee presented Ron Burton, Ben Coates and Stanley Morgan as finalists. That year, the fans selected Morgan for induction. In 2008, the committee nominated Coates, Jon Morris and Jim Nance. Coates earned the honors to become the 13th player to be inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Last year, the finalists were Houston Antwine, Morris and Nance and Nance was voted into the Hall by the fans. In addition, in celebration of the team's 50th Anniversary, the Kraft Family inducted the franchise's founder, Billy Sullivan, into the Hall of Fame as a contributor. He became The Hall's first non-player to be enshrined.
This year's enshrinee will join 14 other Patriot greats and one contributor as a member of the New England Patriots' Hall of Fame (listed in alphabetical order below with year of induction):
Bruce Armstrong (2001)
Nick Buoniconti (1992)
Gino Cappelletti (1992)
Ben Coates (2008)
Bob Dee (1993)
Steve Grogan (1995)
John Hannah (1991)
Mike Haynes (1994)
Jim Lee Hunt (1993)
Stanley Morgan (2007)
Jim Nance (2009)
Steve Nelson (1993)
Vito "Babe" Parilli (1993)
Andre Tippett (1999)
Contributors:William H. "Billy" Sullivan, Jr. (2009)
About The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon
The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multimedia exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for the thousands of schoolchildren expected to visit each year. For more information, please visit www.thehallatpatriotplace.com.