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Patriots 2011 Hall of Fame finalists announced

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots revealed two new names among this year's nominations for hall of fame consideration, as first-year eligible candidates Drew Bledsoeand Bill Parcells join third-time finalist Houston Antwine as this year's class of nominees. Starting Friday, April 15, fans will have one month to vote for the nominee they feel is most deserving of Patriots Hall of Fame induction. Fans can click here to vote through Sunday, May 15. The winner will be selected by the fans and announced the week of May 16. 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.

Beginning in 2007, the Patriots started a new hall of fame tradition, inducting one player or head coach into the team's hall of fame each year. The process for induction now involves a panel of media, alumni and staff who collectively nominate the players and/or head coaches who have been out of football for at least four years who are 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 hall of fame honoree.

This year, the Patriots formed a senior selection committee to ensure that early era players are not overlooked in the voting process. This year's committee consisted of 10 veteran media and staff members who gathered to discuss any candidates who have been retired for at least 25 years to identify the player most deserving of Patriots Hall of Fame recognition. The committee selected seven-time all-star center Jon Morris as the Patriots' 17th person to be inducted into the team's hall of fame. He will be honored at a game later this year and joined by the nominee whom the fans select for the 2011 Patriots hall of fame for their induction ceremonies this fall. The induction ceremony is held outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon and is free and open to the public.

Last month, a 21-person nomination committee met at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon to discuss this year's candidates for induction. Those votes were tallied and the three finalists were revealed today. Now it is up to the fans to decide who is most deserving. Voters for the Patriots Hall of Fame will be limited to one vote per computer IP address. The nominee receiving the most votes will become the 18th person named to the Patriots Hall of Fame. This year's finalists are listed below:

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Houston Antwine **was acquired by the Boston Patriots in a trade with the Houston Oilers in 1961 in exchange for a fourth-round draft choice in 1962. He played 11 seasons for the Patriots, appearing in 142 games (1961-71). He led the Patriots in sacks for three consecutive seasons from 1967-69 and his 39.0 career sacks are tied for 10th (with Richard Seymour) on the Patriots' all-time career sacks list. 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 was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team, the Patriots' All-1960s team as well as the Patriots' 50th Anniversary Team. Long-time Patriots fans and media consider him one of the most underrated players in franchise history. The Buffalo Bills' Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw battled the former NAIA wrestling champion twice annually for nine years and called Antwine "the best defensive tackle I ever played against." This is the third consecutive year that the Patriots Hall of Fame nomination committee has voted to nominate Houston Antwine as one of the three most deserving candidates for Patriots Hall of Fame induction.

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Drew Bledsoe **was the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft and for the next eight years was considered the face of the Patriots franchise. During his nine-year Patriots career, he broke the Patriots' career passing records for attempts (4,518), completions (2,544) and yards (29,657). Bledsoe still holds the Patriots' single-season passing records for attempts (691) and completions (400) and is the only player in franchise history to pass for over 400 yards multiple times (4). He still holds the NFL record for attempts (70) and completions (45) in a game against Minnesota in 1994 that sparked a seven-game win streak, propelling the Patriots to their first playoff berth in eight years. Bledsoe led the Patriots to the playoffs four times in his first six seasons, helping the team earn back-to-back division titles and three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history. In 1996, he guided the Patriots to their second AFC Championship in franchise history and a trip to Super Bowl XXXVI. Bledsoe is the only quarterback in NFL history with four seasons of 600 pass attempts, including three straight from 1994-96 with the Patriots. He is in his first year of Patriots Hall of Fame eligibility.

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Bill Parcells** was the head coach of the New England Patriots for four seasons (1993-96) and led the team to the playoffs twice. After inheriting a team that had finished 14-50 in the previous four years, including an NFL worst 2-14 season in 1992, he brought the clout of a two-time Super Bowl Champion to the Patriots sidelines, infusing instant credibility in 1993. In 1994, a season-ending seven-game win streak allowed the Patriots to clinch their first playoff berth in eight years. The performance earned Parcells NFL Coach of the Year honors. After finishing 6-10 in 1995, the Patriots rebounded with an 11-win season in 1996, tying the then franchise record for wins and earning their first division title in 10 years. After a convincing victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (28-3) in the divisional playoff game in foggy Foxborough, the Patriots hosted their first AFC Championship game and defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-6, to earn a trip to the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history. Parcells is in his first year of eligibility for the Patriots Hall of Fame and is the first Patriots head coach to be nominated by the Hall of Fame Nomination Committee for consideration.

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. 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 call home that they could share 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. Beginning in 2007, fans became 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, a 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 Ben Coates, Jon Morris and Jim Nance and Coates became the 13th player to be inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame. In 2009, Jim Nance was voted into the Hall of Fame. That year, the Kraft family also selected Patriots founder Billy Sullivan as the first non-player to be inducted into the hall of fame as a contributor. Last year, Sam "Bam" Cunningham became the 16th person to earn the honor.

The complete list of Patriots Hall of Famers is listed below:

John Hannah (1991)
Nick Buoniconti (1992)
Gino Cappelletti (1992)
Bob Dee (1993)
Jim Lee Hunt (1993)
Steve Nelson (1993)
Vito "Babe" Parilli (1993)
Mike Haynes (1994)
Steve Grogan (1995)
Andre Tippett (1999)
Bruce Armstrong (2001)
Stanley Morgan (2007)
Ben Coates (2008)
Jim Nance (2009)
Sam Cunningham (2010)
Jon Morris (2011)

Contributor
William "Billy" Sullivan (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.

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