Ty Law is already a Patriots Hall of Famer, and this year he is nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ty's historic career in the NFL and New England is one Patriots fans know well, and in an essay for "The Players' Tribune," Ty addresses his younger self and reflects on the path that led him to the NFL.
Here are some things we learned about Ty from his essay.
Growing up in Aliquippa, Penn.
The streets were tough. Ty writes about one night in particular when a verbal fight turned into something more. Though the guy puts a gun to Ty's head, he walks away from the incident, but instead of just going home, he goes back to find the man who wronged him.
"That night, you'll do some real soul-searching. It'll be clear that the streets are no place for you. You ain't cut out for that life."
Critics and grandmas of Alquippa
The people in town took football seriously, and Ty says after being heckled by grandmothers while walking home from a tough loss, he could take criticism from anyone.
"But that's good. It's gonna prepare you for the next level, and eventually, the highest level," Ty writes. "Because when coaches start using four-letter words and fans are throwing things at you, you'll be like, Man, y'all ain't got nothin' on the grandmas back in Aliquippa!"
Betting on yourself
When Ty got to Michigan and saw his name far down on the wide receiver depth chart, he barged into the meeting with defensive backs and made himself at home.
"You'll ride that chip on your shoulder to a starting spot as a true freshman and all the way to the All-Big Ten team as a sophomore and earning All-America honors your junior year. You'll be one of the best cornerbacks in the country."
Ty's grandfather raised him, and throughout the essay it is clear just how much of an impact Pap left on his grandson. He is someone Ty looked up to, and when he found out that Pap might lose the house he worked so hard for, Ty made a decision. He was going to declare for the NFL draft in his junior year and make some money to help his Pap.
"Opportunity doesn't just come knocking, like they say it does. You gotta create that s*. Anyone who's ever gotten out of Aliquippa knows that."
Getting to New England
Drafted in the first round, Ty made a name and home in New England.
"New England is … well, it's basically Boston. And the fans are no joke. They won't give a damn that you're a first-round pick. They'll boo the s* out of you. And you know what? You'll love them for it. They'll constantly remind you that you gotta earn every last bit of respect in this league, and you gotta earn it every day."
And that new quarterback?
"Well, when the starter, Drew Bledsoe, gets injured early in the season, Tom will take over. And since your defense is stacked and this dude has barely played a down in the league, you'll basically tell him, 'We got this, kid. Just don't mess it up for us,'" he writes. "But I'm telling you: Pretty boy is a competitor."
Super Bowl XXXVI
No one believed the Patriots could take on "The Greatest Show on Turf," but the scrappy team believed in itself. Ultimately, that team defeated the Rams, and in his second Super Bowl appearance, Ty had himself a game.
"You'll have a pick-six in that game. Your family and friends will be there to see it. It'll be one of the best nights of your life. You'll be on top of the world."
Despite a great run with the Patriots, Ty eventually moved on to the Jets and Chiefs, but in 2008, he came close to coming home to Foxborough. He met with Coach Bill Belichick, and they talked about a potential deal. Coach Belichick called him after returning to Foxborough and said the numbers didn't work.
"Now, I need you to listen to me close right here. See, when people get older and they've had time to reflect like I have, most say they have no regrets. Like, if they could go back, they wouldn't change a damn thing, because it's all part of their story and it made them who they are today and this and that. For the most part, I'm like that, too," he writes. "But if I could go back to that phone conversation with Coach Belichick, I would say, 'Well, tell me what you can make work and let's do the deal.' But you won't do that."
Even though that deal fell through and Ty ended his career outside of New England, he has been welcomed warmly back to Foxborough. And as a Patriot Hall of Famer, he is certainly a Patriot for life.
His whole essay is worth the read for any Patriots fan. Check it out on The Players' Tribune.