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Transcript: Drew Bledsoe Conference Call

Former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe addresses the media during his conference call on Thursday, April 15, 2001. Bledsoe was named one of three finalists for Patriots Hall of Fame induction.

DB: Thanks for taking the time today, guys. Obviously, it's a great honor to be considered for the Patriots Hall of Fame. I got the call yesterday from Robert Kraft. Unfortunately, it just went to voicemail. I know he's quite busy right now, so I haven't been able to talk to him directly yet. It's a great honor to be considered and great company to be in. I appreciate the honor and with that, I'll go ahead and open it up to questions from you guys.

Q: Looking back, what are your favorite memories in New England?

DB: Trying to cycle through my favorite memories is a big data pack, obviously, but there are some specifics that stand out. First of all, just when I was drafted and came up to New England for the first time and the welcome I received with my family. You've got the small town kid from Walla Walla (Washington) moving across the country and being installed as a figurehead of an organization. It was pretty heady times, but the welcome I received and that we received just that first day when we came up was a bit overwhelming. Then flashing forward, that rookie year - I've said a number of times that it was a little bit like sticking your head in a popcorn machine; everything was happening so fast. All of that and all that went into that, it was pretty crazy times. But to finish that first season winning four in a row and to beat the Dolphins on the last play of the season to knock them out of the playoffs, that was a memory that certainly clearly stands out. In '94, the game against the Vikings stands out. I remember I never was --and still to this day am not -- a very superstitious person. But I remember at halftime of the Vikings game or just before the half, I think it was, actually, I was having problems with my shoes, so I went and changed my shoes to a different pair of cleats. And from then on we seemed to get pretty hot, so I got pretty attached to those cleats and wore them for the rest of the season, and we went on to win seven in a row and make the playoffs for the first time. 1996 obviously stands out - multiple games from 1996. Beating the Steelers in Foxborough in the fog and somehow being underdogs at home but coming out and beating the Steelers in a pretty convincing fashion. I'll always remember the first play of that game; I went deep with Terry Glenn right by Rod Woodson for almost a touchdown. I'll still never forgive Terry for not getting in the end zone on that first play. That play certainly stands out. Just that scene was pretty amazing. And then winning the AFC Championship game in Foxborough to go to the Super Bowl is a poignant memory in my mind. Then moving beyond that, there were a ton of games that stand out after that, but certainly one that will always be ingrained in my mind was when I got to finally come back in and play against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh when Tommy [Brady] sprained his ankle. That's a memory that I will take with me forever and ever; to be able to come back in after not playing and to help our team to win that game to get to another Super Bowl is a memory that will always stick with me. When I think, from a broader sense, about my time with the Patriots, I just have extremely fond memories. Obviously there were ups and downs that go with any career - particularly when you're playing quarterback - but the memories I have are only fond ones. The fans in New England were always so supportive and passionate in their support of me and the Patriots while I was there. It was a pretty magical thing to be a part of.

Q: What were your impressions of the Patriots organization when you were drafted and later when you left the organization in a better place a decade letter?

DB: My wife and I had a chance this last year to come back and [we] hadn't been back a lot to New England since. We had a chance to walk around the stadium and around Patriot Place and see The Hall there and see all that's transpired since we left. I think we all probably recognize the state of the organization when I was drafted in '93. [It] was not an organization that had had a lot of success. But under the stewardship of Bill Parcells and moving on obviously to the ownership of the Kraft family, it's really become one of if not the marquee franchise in the NFL. Certainly I'm very proud of whatever part I played in that rise to prominence of the organization. You know the comment I made to my wife the last time [we were there] was I really felt like during my time there the organization went from one place to a much better place and then from there, once I left, it's continued to go onwards and upward. I'm certainly very proud to have been part of that resurgence of the Patriots and I also take some degree of pride in seeing where they've gone since I left. What the Kraft family has done with that organization and with the support of fans across the New England region, it's pretty neat to see where it was and where it is now.

Q: Another finalist who is on the ballot with you is Bill Parcells. Can you talk about being under his guidance, not once, but twice?

DB: I was a glutton for punishment. I went back for more. It was a petty rare thing when I was drafted to come to an organization that had not had much success but all of a sudden had a Super Bowl-winning coach on the sidelines. That was very fortuitous for me and for the organization to have a coach of his stature come in, even when there hadn't been much success, but instantly there seemed to be a sense of optimism and Bill was certainly a part of that. Bill's record is what it is. He's a fantastic coach. He was great at rebuilding franchises. He did it numerous times. I'm proud to say I played for him.

Q: (From Bryan Morry at The Hall at Patriot Place) This is a selfish question, but you don't have those shoes from 1994, do you?

DB: You know, I don't know where they are. I should have held onto them. I don't know where they went. I think maybe I threw them away after the playoff game against the Browns because they didn't win that game for us. So they were imperfect, but they were good for seven games for us.

Q: Is there anybody on the team that you still keep in touch with, including Tom Brady?

DB: I keep in touch with Tommy every now and then, mostly via text message. We've talked a handful of times over the years. I've certainly been very proud to watch the way Tom has handled himself. Obviously he's been one of the best players in the league for a number of years now on the field, but the way that he has continued to conduct himself with such a level of class, on and off the field, I've been proud to watch that. Success is one thing, but there is only so much you can control of that part. The part that you can control is how you handle yourself as a person, and watching Tommy's success and the way that he has handled all of it has been great to watch. I keep in touch with a number of guys. I talked to Todd Rucci just yesterday. We keep in touch quite a bit. I stay in touch with Bruce Armstrong from time to time. I did touch base with Kevin Turner here just in the last couple of months. Hearing about and seeing what he's been going through has been kind of a rough deal, seeing somebody who was a teammate and a great friend going through what he's going through is a pretty difficult thing. But I've touched base with him a couple of times. And then, when we were back out there, I spent some time with [Scott] Zolak and Max Lane and some of those guys that I played with. But the guy I keep in touch with the most is Rucci. I touch base with a number of other guys from time to time, but it's going to be fun to get back together with everybody, so hopefully we'll get that done here soon. I keep in touch with Terry Glenn once in a while, too. Terry and I exchange text messages from time to time. I got to play with Terry twice...

Q: What about Ben Coates?

DB: You know I haven't touched base with Ben. I need to get in touch with him. I haven't talked to him in quite a while. He certainly was as integral part of my personal success and our team success as anybody during that era. But I haven't heard from Ben in quite a while. I'd love to hook up with him again at some point.

Q: You're on the ballot with a guy in Parcells, who along with you and Robert Kraft, are given a lot of credit for the resurgence of the team in the 1990s. Do you find it ironic that now you're on the ballot with the guy who drafted you?

DB: Yeah. Sure. There's a sense of irony in that for sure. I'm not entirely convinced that Bill's all the way retired to be honest with you. I think he's got it in his blood so much that he may be back coaching again before it's over with, but yeah, we've come full circle here a little bit with he and I arriving the same year and then being on the ballot the same year. Pretty interesting.

Q: What is the modern day Drew Bledsoe up to now?

DB: I have a busy day today. The reason I was a little bit late is it's still winter out here - I don't know if it is out there - so I figured I better go up and go skiing for a little while. So I went skiing for a little while this morning and now I have a big afternoon ahead of me. My daughter is turning 8 so we've got a birthday party with a bunch of 8-year-old girls, so that should be the peak of excitement. But I'm focused on a couple of things personally outside of coaching my kids and raising a family. We've got a winery up in Walla Walla that has been very successful for us and we're having a lot of fun with that, travelling around and marketing our wine and going back and forth to Walla Walla to check on things and make sure that we're progressing there. So that's been a really fun project and has been a success for us and then we've got a small private equity group. We do some investing, just me and a couple of partners, primarily focused right now on clean energy and renewables. We're working on a major project that we've been onto for the last... going on three years now, focused on cleaning water for the natural gas industry. That's been keeping me pretty busy also. Thankfully, both of those projects, while they do keep me busy, I've been able to form my own schedule to a certain extent, so I've been able to take part in coaching my kids and watching them as they move on through their budding athletic and academic careers. If I can puff my chest out a little bit, you guys should know that the third and fourth-grade flag football team last year was undefeated here in the city of Bend (Oregon). I'm surprised you didn't read about it online, but I did coach them to an undefeated season, so I'm pretty proud of that.

Q: How do you feel about your former league being shut down right now in a lockout?

DB: That's a tough situation. My hope and anticipation is that with the guidance of smart people like Bob Kraft, that they will find a solution so that we have a football season. I think everyone recognizes that not having a season is no good for anybody. My hope and anticipation is that they will get it worked out. But, you know, from time to time these kind of things have to happen and both sides are pretty firm in their position. But I do think that before we get too deep into the summer I would anticipate that they will find a resolution. If they don't it will be a real tragedy for everybody involved.

Q: How much do you pay attention to the current Patriots team and what do you think about what Bill Belichick has done since you left?

DB: You know, I watch some football. My kids play their football games on Sundays in the Fall, so those days are pretty tied up, but I do follow reasonably closely what's going on. What the Patriots have done and what Belichick has done and what Robert Kraft and his family have done with that organization is really pretty amazing. Honestly, in this day and age when the league is pushing for parity, to have a run like they've had where they've just year after year after year are able to not rebuild but reload and maintain such a high level of success is really pretty amazing, as I know you guys know from watching it up close and personal. I've been very, very impressed with what Tommy and Belichick and the whole organization has been able to do. You tend to see in the league teams rise up for a year or two years and then go by the wayside for a few years, and the Patriots have been able to maintain that extremely high level of success for a long time now. It's really been pretty amazing to watch.

Q: You mentioned coaching your kids. Do you have any plans to ever return to the NFL as a coach in some way?

DB: No I don't think so. If I were ever to step into [coaching], my old man was a football coach and I loved growing up that way, but if I ever did it wouldn't be beyond the high school level. And there are two reasons for that, honestly. One is that it was really important to me when I left the game of football to have a clean break and move onto the next phase of my life. I've never been really excited about - although I certainly feel very honored to be considered for the hall of fame - but that said, it was very important for me to move on and not to rest on my laurels on what I've done before but to move on and do something new and try to be successful at some new endeavors. That's very important to me. I've made a very clean break there. The football career part of my life was, is and always will be very important to me. I loved every second of it. Even the bad times, it was still just the coolest thing I could imagine ever doing, but with that said it was really important to me to move on and do something new and exciting. The other part of it, quite frankly, is that I'm not willing to give up the amount of time it takes to be successful in that role. As I've said, I have a couple of projects going on, I have a young family and the amount of time that it takes to be successful as a coach at those higher levels is just not something that I'm willing to commit to.

Q: It seems that you very easily made that transition. Do you look at a guy like Brett Favre and feel thankful that you were able to make such an easy transition to your post-football life?

DB: Yeah. It's not an easy thing, and the reasons are all pretty obvious, but you go from that lifestyle of being an NFL football player, where you've got the adrenaline rush of Sundays. You've got the structure around you: where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there, what you're supposed to do. You've got all that goes with that. And then when you step away from that, it's not like one part of that goes away; it all goes away. You've got to find things to fill those voids. The advantage that I had is that I recognized probably eight or nine years into my career that it wasn't going to last forever. So we started planning for it. I bought some vineyard lands and started that project. I laid the foundations for this capital group, this private equity group that we have, so that when I stepped away I wasn't stepping into the void. I was moving into these other things that were exciting and engaging. And because of that, I really, honestly, because I planned for it and was ready for it, I honestly haven't had a day since I retired where I've gotten out of bed trying to figure out what I was going to do that day. I've just been engaged the entire time. So from that standpoint, I think Brett just needs a hobby. He needs to find something else he wants to do. I did bristle at some of the criticism he got for continuing to play, because if you want to keep playing football and they still want you, you should go ahead and keep doing it. For me, it was different. I was ready to make that transition and when I did it, I stepped away and really, honestly haven't looked back. So it's been a good transition for me. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that when I turn on a game and watch the opening kickoff my body still reacts to that. My hair stands up and the adrenaline starts flowing a little bit. That will always be there. I will always have that desire and that that piece of me that wants to get back out there and do it again, but I think that's pretty consistent for everybody at whatever level you played. But now I find my competition and my engagement in other arenas and I'm fighting hard to be successful in new endeavors and because of that I really don't have that void that I think gets guys in trouble sometimes.

Thank you guys for taking the time and as I said when I opened, it's quite an honor to be considered for this kind of recognition. It does seem crazy to me that it's been four years that I stopped playing football. Often times it seems like it was just yesterday that I was out there competing and throwing the football around, but certainly this honor is a great one just to even be considered for [the Patriots Hall of Fame]. So thanks for taking the time to talk and hopefully we'll see you guys sometime again soon.

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