TB: Thanks, first of all, for having me and wanting to talk about this Hall of Fame thing and other things, of course, too.
Q: What does it mean to you to be honored by the organization in this kind of way and have your career remembered?
TB: I think about all the hard work I've put in with the New England Patriots for 15 long years. You get repaid in this way to be honored by this organization and be a part of a very unique group of not so many athletes because they only choose one of these guys a year. I'm honored to be even nominated; between Bill Parcells and Fred Marion, [there's] great competition there. It means a lot to me that they would think that my career was that successful here in New England to be considered to be one of those members.
Q: How proud are you to see how far this organization has come? You came here when the franchise truly was down and it reached new heights while you were here.
TB: I just remember coming in and I think the year before I got here, I think Scott Zolak had won one or two games with the team before and he was the town hero because of his victories. The expectations of this football team were pretty low. To be a part of - [Bill] Parcells is another nominee for the Patriots Hall of Fame, and to come in with him and get this thing turned around and then the very next year the Kraft family buying the team, I think the expectations of this football team just shot through the roof. I think the vision of the Kraft family, what he [Robert Kraft] had for this organization and this town and this state and this area, I think we've far exceeded what he had in mind for the New England Patriots organization.
Q: What were some of the key points to the turnaround and what was it like living through that?
TB: I look back on that 1993 season, my rookie season. I think we came in there and we lost just about every game we played. Then at the end of the season, we went on a four-game winning straight and I just remember guys being excited about coming back and playing in 1994 and getting the next season started because we ended the season so well and we were able to put some back-to-back wins together. I think guys were really excited about coming back the next year. I mentioned '94 was when the Kraft family bought the team and brought new expectations to not just the players, but to the entire area. But you can look at that season too, where we put together some wins and beat some quality teams and made it to the playoffs for the first time in a long time for the franchise. Obviously, you go up to 1996 where we go in there with a young football team and go out there and face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. I think all those were just huge moments for us turning the corner with this entire organization. I think one of the biggest impacts was made when they went out and hired Bill Belichick and his family came back here to coach this football team. I think you really saw what we were working toward. I think you saw it really come to a head when those guys got the job. Even though it didn't start that way in 2000 and 2001 [in] the first two games, I think you could see the drastic measures taking place, what greatness would become for all of us.
Q: Do you ever think back to early in your career when you were released and out in the unemployment line? Did a young football player ever think it was over that quickly?
TB: Yeah, that definitely went through my head after being out for I think seven or eight weeks in 1994. I thought about it. I actually went out and got a job; I started working at the Boys and Girls Club. I was planning to go back to school in January and finishing up my degree. That's what you have to do when you don't have a job and you've been out for almost two months. But I was blessed and I was lucky to get the phone call. I still remember watching that Jet game - I think the Patriots were playing the New York Jets in New York. A buddy of mine at the time, Ronnie Harris, who actually had my job as the punt returner, he went out and he fumbled a punt and I believe the Jets went on to win the game. I wasn't expecting a phone call but I received a phone call from Bobby Grier that night telling me to get ready to come back. I asked if my plane tickets would be ready - I was waiting for that moment because my tryouts were far and between. I think I worked out for Kansas City once and I think I worked out for the Jets once, in that whole two-month period that I was out of football and the Patriots hadn't called at all, so I was pretty impressed to get that phone call.
Q: What Boys and Girls Club were you working at?
TB: It's in Huntington. It's called Guyandotte Boys and Girls Club back in West Virginia.
Q: What did it mean to you to play for one team for your entire career?
TB: It was very important to me. Once I reached a certain point in my career, I didn't want to play anyplace else. I look at Foxborough itself; I'm a small town guy and Foxborough is probably 10 times bigger than my hometown. I like the peace and quiet of Foxborough. I loved played for this organization, this team, this atmosphere. I loved the accountability they put on the players to go and out and do your job. I never had any problems with Bill Parcells, never had any problems with Pete Carroll and definitely haven't had any with Bill Belichick. I love that, even though a lot of guys can't really handle that. Those guys were here throughout my career and made it that much easier for me to stay here and play. Coaching and who you're playing for and who you're playing with has a lot to do with guys wanting to stay where they are. I had no problem staying here my entire career. From ownership on down to the coaches and to the players I played with, for whatever reason I always seemed to get lucky to play with a great bunch guys that may not be the most recognized guys, but guys who know how to play the game and are real professional about what they're doing. I've been blessed from high school to college and in the pros too to play with some tremendous players in my day.
Q: Is it still kind of stunning to see this stadium and the development around it compared to the stadium you reported to back in 1993?
TB: When I came out there, there was a little horse race track out there and horse stables and it smelled like manure on the backside of the stadium. The bubble kept collapsing every time there was heavy snowfall. What they've done with that place is just amazing. To be able to go up there [Patriot Place] now and have lunch, have dinner, do a little bit of shopping, take the kids out for ice cream, whatever it is - just a great place to come and have a big family outing. They've done an outstanding job with Patriot Place there and it's become one of the - hopefully in everybody else's mind - to me one of the great places to come play a game.
Q: You're at Comcast SportsNet now, is that right?
Q: What's it like being on the media side compared to where you were?
TB: The big thing now [is] I have to go through the security like everybody else. Every once in awhile someone stops me and asks me to sign in or something, but for the most part it's pretty cool. At first, it was pretty difficult for me to get on the players a little bit, but I had to think about that for awhile. I had to think about some of the guys as teammates and what I would have said to them as teammates. I don't say anything on the air that I wouldn't say to a player's face. I kind of struggled with that at first and now I'm pretty comfortable with it and I think the guys kind of respect that. At least you know they're listening to what you have to say when they bring up something you said on television about them. I really enjoy getting to know some new people and getting to know some of the guys on the media side of things. I can go back and tell some of the people I played with that they're really not bad and they're really not jerks.
Q: There are a handful of you guys that used to be in this locker room that are now in media. Is it ironic at all that you have so many guys doing that?
TB: I think there's been a big boom with the whole media side of things. I think there are so many local stations now and the NFL Network out there. There are just a lot of different jobs out there for guys to take and it's a way for guys to stay around the game without having to get involved with coaching right now. That's always an option for guys to stay around the game, but this allows me to go into work and do a good job and get to go home and spend time with your kids, your family, whatever it is you want to do and then you come back and you talk about what you love to do and that's football.
Q: How would you like to be remembered as a football player?
TB: I think I've said this before: maybe not the tallest or biggest or fastest or strongest or whatever, but just the best football player. Not the outstanding wide receiver or most outstanding punt returner, but I think overall pound-for-pound and everything else, best football player. I feel like I could do everything pretty well. It didn't matter to me what coach asked me to do - if it was go in there and block, I just enjoyed playing the game, I enjoyed every aspect of the game down to who made the block, who did this. As long as I was able to get on the field and participate and if I could throw the block to spring somebody, if I could take a snap or two at quarterback or go out and defend somebody or be the guy holding up the gunner on the punt return team, I just enjoyed being out on the field and helping my team win games.