Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi and his three New York City firefighter brothers - Jimmy, Marc and Billy - will be honored by the Scottish Claymores this weekend as part of the Kickoff Weekend festivities for NFL Europe.
Andruzzi and his brothers garnered much attention for their personal story in the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11. Jimmy Andruzzi was among the first 500 firefighters on the scene at the World Trade Center towers and managed to escape seconds before the second tower collapsed. All three of Joe Andruzzi's brothers aided in rescue efforts at Ground Zero.
The tribute to the Andruzzi brothers will be the first of several "Tribute to Heroes" events planned for the NFL Europe season. The goal is to honor emergency services workers in the United States and Europe. Firefighters from Scotland's Strathclyde Fire Brigade will make a special presentation to the Andruzzi family prior to the Claymores game with F.C. Barcelona on Sunday
For Joe Andruzzi, the trip to Scotland marks a return to where his football career began to blossom. After making the Green Bay Packers roster in 1997 as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Southern Connecticut, he spent his entire rookie season watching from the sidelines, being listed among the game day inactives every week.
Following that season, Andruzzi played for the Claymores in the summer of 1998, starting all 10 games and earning a spot on the All-NFL Europe team. The season served as a springboard heading into training camp, and Andruzzi saw action in 15 games, including one start in his second season.
Andruzzi came to New England on Sept. 9, 2000 and has become a fixture on the offensive line. He started all 11 games he played in 2000 before a shoulder injury forced him to the injured reserve list. Last season he strengthened his hold on the right guard spot, starting every game, including three in the postseason.
His performance earned Andruzzi a three-year contract in December. The deal included a $550,000 signing bonus and could be worth up to $3.55 million.
It's not hard to see why Andruzzi is so well respected in New England. In addition to performing well despite his family adversity, the five-year veteran displayed the type of toughness coaches love early in the season. In Week Four at Miami he suffered what appeared to be a very serious, possibly season-ending knee injury. He defied the odds and started the very next week, and never missed a game, in the process drawing heavy praise from Head Coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick will have a pre-draft press conference Thursday at noon. It can be seen and heard live here on Patriots.com… Defensive tackle Brandon Mitchell won't return next season. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, where he'll be reunited with former Patriots defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell and fellow defensive lineman Chad Eaton… Here's hoping the jinx isn't real. Quarterback Tom Brady will appear shirtless on the next cover of Sports Illustrated with the title words, "The Natural: A Whirlwind Off-Season for the New Prince of the NFL."