Q: When the three finalists were announced, what was your level of expectation that you would be the 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame inductee?
RC: I really felt real good about it and had two excellent guys that were also nominated with me. I keep reverting back to the Super Bowls and previous years when I was a candidate, it always had gone to one of those guys. I thought the same thing was going to happen again. I was totally surprised and very happy.
Q: When you got the call from Robert Kraft, was it almost like you had to double check the news?
RC: He said a few things. He said, "Raymond, you were the guy that we picked this year," or something like that, and then he kept talking. I had to ask him. I said, "Are you telling me that I won the vote against Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel?"
Q: What does this mean to you and your family?
RC: We're all happy. It's something that we thought that I should have gone in a lot sooner than I have. We're just all happy here. The past couple of weekends, I was up in D.C. for my daughter's graduation from Howard University and came back down here and my son was graduating from high school this weekend. It's been a busy weekend - a busy week, couple of weeks - so this caps it off and we're all happy about it.
Q: How closely do you follow the current Patriots and how much pride do you take in being a part of the team's original run of success?
RC: I follow them all the time. You know, I was drafted by the Patriots in 1977, and since then, I was a player, and after I retired, I became a fan. I got to come up for a couple of events with those guys. I forget the names of those guys that had those events that we did a little softball game, we played flag football, did basketball games. We had five current Patriots and five older guys that came up there and joined those guys. Those guys who won those Super Bowls, those first three Super Bowls, that's when all that was going on up there, and I would come up and play with some of those guys. They were such great guys. They all were good guys, and you could see the togetherness that they had. It's something I wish we had had back in the '70s when I joined the team, but I was happy to see it happen for those Patriots and me being a former Patriot, just very, very happy about that.
Q: What did being a teammate of Mike Haynes mean to you?
RC: Well, Mike and I have always been close. He was drafted the year before me. My first year, I had to get prepared to play the cornerback position in the NFL. I came out of Texas, played wide receiver, running back, safety and corner and I returned kicks down there, but it was a little different in college and the pros playing cornerback. I had to sit behind a guy by the name of Bobby Howard, who was an 11-year veteran, and Mike being on the other side, and I had to learn the technique and the fundamentals of playing the cornerback position. It was kind of tough out there my second year when I was starting out there because Mike being on the other side an All-Pro, I got a lot of the action. You know, over the six or seven years that we played together, I got most of the attention from the other teams - the quarterback and wide receivers - so I had more interceptions. Then when Mike left, just the opposite happened. I was a guy that they were throwing away from. Ronnie Lippett, a guy that eventually took Mike Haynes' place, did a great job out there. He came on and we eventually ended up in the Super Bowl, but it wasn't a happy ending that we wanted.
Q: You mentioned Bobby Howard. Even though he was a starter, did he work hard with you and help you develop at the position as a young player?
RC: Yes, you know, the fundamentals are a lot different than in college. I think it's closer now from a guy coming out of college. A lot of them from the big schools are ready to play cornerback and they know the fundamentals and the techniques, but I didn't have that coming out of the University of Texas. So Bobby Howard meant a lot to me, and he helped me to understand what it took to play cornerback in the NFL.
Q: How would you describe your style of play to younger fans that didn't have a chance to watch you as a player?
RC: Well, I was the kind of guy that could use different techniques. I mainly liked to get close up to the line of scrimmage. I don't know if you guys remember that we were a man-to-man blitzing team under Hank Bullough, the defensive coordinator up there, so you had to disguise, try to cover up what you were actually doing, not let them know you were in man-to-man by moving up and back and using different techniques - off bump-and-run, off 7 yards. They wouldn't let us be but 7 yards off of them. They said we had to do that. We just came together and did a great job.
Q: For fans who watched you play, will you give an update on what you are doing now?
RC: Well, I'm retired. I retired about seven years ago when I turned 55. I live in Katy, Texas. I have three children and a grandson. As I mentioned earlier, my middle daughter graduated from Howard University and she was in journalism. Her major was journalism. Her minor was Spanish. My son, my namesake, Raymond Clayborn, Jr., graduated from high school and he accepted a scholarship in football to Texas Southern University.
Q: How often do you get a chance to come back and visit New England, if at all?
RC: I haven't been up there in a while. I'm still trying to remember those guy's names that put that on. One was a linebacker and the other was a defensive lineman. One played for Buffalo; [Fred Smerlas]. Yeah, that group of guys was great. They called me up and they asked me if I wanted to come up and join in the fun and I said "Hey, I'm ready." With the first three Super Bowl teams, I knew those guys. I got to meet them. Like I mentioned earlier, they were all great guys and they were all together. You could see why they won. Bill Belichick had them ready, and primed and ready to go as a team.
Q: What does it mean to you to hold the all-time interception record in franchise history?
RC: Well, Ty [Law] tied it and realistically Ty's last year with the Patriots he was injured after he tied it. I believe he would have broken it if he hadn't of been injured. I look at him officially as the guy that holds that record because if he hadn't of been injured he would've gotten it. But I am proud of being tied with Ty Law, who I think belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Q: Does it surprise you at all that the fans of the team who are probably a little bit spoiled after the success over the past decade-plus still remembered you fondly enough to vote you into the hall of fame?
RC: Well, I'll tell you what - it was the fourth time and I believe that the guys they put in earlier, the three times before this one, I agreed with them. These guys deserved to be in the hall of fame. Like I mentioned numerous times to people who have asked me questions about the teams of the 2000's - they deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I can't understand why a Ty Law, a Tedy Brushci, a Richard Seymour, or a Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest - everybody talks about Tom [Brady], and Tom Brady is a great quarterback, probably the greatest of all time. But he has not done it by himself. I look back at the 70's when the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in about six years I believe it was. You have like 10 or 15 of those guys go into the hall of fame. Here with the run that the Patriots have had since 2002 I believe it was when they beat the Rams in New Orleans, it just hasn't happened and I don't see why it has not happened, and it should happen with some of these guys like the guys that I mentioned earlier; a Bruschi, a Seymour, Ty Law. You look at the offensive side of the ball - you have Randy Moss that came up there with us. He did get in, didn't he? Has Randy Moss gotten into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet?
RC: No, he hasn't. OK. The two guys that I see out there now, [Danny] Amendola and [Julian] Edelman, they are terrific. I would've loved to have played with those guys, believe me.
Q: Do you think you would have had some good practice battles with them?
RC: Oh, yeah. Those are some tough guys in Amendola and Edelman. They are tough little guys.
Q: You mentioned the numerous positions that you played in college. When did you find out that you would be playing exclusively at cornerback and on special teams with the Patriots?
RC: My sophomore year we came up to play Boston College over in Chestnut Hill. My head coach, Darrell Royal, two weeks before when we came in for the preseason practice, all spring we were getting Earl Campbell in, we had Roosevelt Leaks who I believe should've won the Heisman Trophy my freshman year in 1973, the best running back in the country I thought. Then we had the best high school running back, Earl Campbell, coming in. So they moved me to wide receiver the whole spring practice. We would go back to the wish-bone. We would run the I-formation because Earl was better at running in the I-formation and I would do reverses and this and that. Two weeks before we get ready to play Boston College we come in for the fall practice and he tells me that he wanted to move me to safety. I said "Why?", and he said "The pros want to see you there." I said "Yes sir, I'm ready to play at safety." We go up and he says "I have someone that I want you to meet when we get there. I'm going to call you." I get ready, he calls me down to the lobby and we go down there and I meet Chuck Fairbanks and we talked for about four or five minutes. He was telling me that he would like to have me up there to play for the Patriots. I'm a sophomore at the University of Texas. I'm saying "Oh my god." OK, yes sir, I'm ready." I wasn't quite ready but I was happy to hear him say that. I guess he was the one that was talking with Coach Royal the whole time. Then when I came back my junior year he said "Well, they don't want to see you at safety. They'd rather see you at corner." We didn't use the techniques that the pros used at playing cornerback. We would karaoke to the outside; old southern college defense. I did not have the fundamentals and the skills to come in and play the position right off like Mike Haynes did. He played a more pro-style defense at Arizona State. But again, we had Bobby Howard. We keep mentioning him and he was tremendous with Mike Haynes the year before and he was great with me the year that I came in. That was a guy that really settled me down and talked with me about playing the cornerback positon.