[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="329376"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]WM:Good afternoon, everyone. First of all, I just want to say that I'm honored to be the 24th inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. I want to thank, first of all, the entire Kraft family, the writers, all my teammates and coaches along the way and, of course, the fans for making all this possible. It's a humbling experience. I knew I was one of a couple of really talented players who were also deserving and just paying my respect to all the players who put on Patriots uniforms who also deserve this honor. I'm just happy and like I said, blessed to be in this position and humbled by being inducted.
Q: Congratulations, Willie. How often do you look back on the 1994 NFL Draft and the fate of you ending up in New England rather than Dallas?
WM:I tell the story all the time. It's a funny situation because [former Patriots head coach Bill] Parcells never really called me or kept in touch. I had one visit, and I thought I was going to Dallas just because of all the representatives I had in the room and what was about to take place. They were going to trade and move up and then I happened to be in New England. I really didn't watch a lot of New England football. I knew about it because Drew [Bledsoe] had got drafted number one overall the year before. We were the same draft class. I just like to say in short, it all worked out pretty well.
Q: At what point did you know that the organization was headed in the right direction? Obviously, the franchise was not in great shape when you arrived, but then you became a big part of the change in the team's success. When did it click for you?
WM:Well, I mean pretty quickly. We went to the Super Bowl my second year at the Patriots. We had some success early. I knew when Mr. [Robert] Kraft bought the team that he had a lot of expectations to grow the organization and make this one of the best, premier organizations in the league. The coaches and everybody there were determined to get the best players on the roster. Just being around some of the guys that I played with, after that first Super Bowl in 1996, I just knew that we had an opportunity to do something great. Of course, I didn't imagine it would be one of the most winning franchises in history and everything that's [been] accomplished and where the organization is now, it's exceeded all of my expectations. Like I said, I had success early in my career with the Patriots. The expectations for me and for the organization, our goals were always set high.
Q: You were a part of the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions, so I was wondering, what allowed you and that team to be able to repeat? What are the challenges that this current Patriots team faces in trying to capture another Lombardi Trophy?
WM:I think when we won in 2001 and then we didn't make the playoffs the next year, I think that was the thing that really let us know that, regardless of what happens the year prior, you have to hit the reset button. You have to start all over. You can't just show up and win Super Bowls. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of offseason preparation. The other thing, there's free agency, try to keep the nucleus, try to keep the foundation together. Today's game, it's tough because [when] the players have success, they want to be paid accordingly. So, there are a lot of things that factor in. I think the biggest thing that was humbling for us was when we didn't go to the playoffs and we went back to work like we never accomplished anything. Bill Belichick [stressed] that it didn't matter what you did last year, it didn't matter what you did last week. Nobody cares. It's all about going forward and you have to play each game like it's your last game. I think if you have the mindset and you have enough guys that buy into that and don't get caught up in everybody telling them that they're the best and the whole Super Bowl thing because it can go the whole, entire offseason. The faster you forget about it and move on and get prepared for what's coming, I think you have the best chance.
Q: What kind of impact did Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick have on you?
WM:Parcells drafted me. He's a different animal, of course, but his knowledge of the game at every position, what he expects out of every player, how he pushes you. I had coaches with his mentality and demeanor growing up as a kid, so it didn't bother me at all. I was actually attracted to his style as well as Bill Belichick's style. You can't have thin skin, but one thing [Parcells] does is he prepares you, he teaches you and he expects a lot out of you. You may have some success, but to get his approval you have to have consistent success. That's why he's won Super Bowls and he's in the Hall of Fame. And I think Bill Belichick carries some of those same traits as a head coach – the preparation, definitely one of the smartest, not just coaches, but smartest people I've ever been around, putting you in position to succeed, knowing and understanding all of the players' strengths and weaknesses and not leaving any detail unturned. From a game-planning, preparation aspect, it's been more times than not that he's sat in the meeting room and told us exactly what's going to happen. That Monday morning guys are turning around looking at each other because some of the things he said would happen definitely happened and took place. Both these coaches are highly intelligent, their football IQ as well as just being smart individuals are unique. They see both sides of the ball. I think that's the one unique thing about both coaches. They're not just one dimensional when it comes to coaching offense or defense. They can see and understand how to coach every single position and put those players in position to succeed.
Q: What coaches were the most instrumental in helping you develop as a player and in particular helped you embrace the role of elephant in the Patriots defense?
WM:When I came out of USC, I did everything but I dropped into coverage rarely. So, I'd have to say initially playing in different systems with Bill Parcells, I played defensive end and I also played outside linebacker. A guy who understands the linebacker position on defense – that was the core. If you look at the Giants defense, if you look at Cleveland's defense, the linebacker corps was always the strength of the defense and that front seven. Because of my size and my skillset, I was fortunate and blessed enough to be able to do both, which made me a little more versatile in those systems. Pete Carroll, also when he came to the Patriots, he brought in Charles Haley to work with me. Parcells brought in Lawrence Taylor. The late, great Derrick Thomas was friend of mine when I came into the league. I learned from him. I learned some linebacker stuff from Andre Tippett. I had a lot of great teachers in learning the position and how to utilize my skillset. When you're over 265 pounds and you're big, you can run, you can understand coverages, you can get up and pick your hand off the ground, it gives coaches a little more versatility. Once Bill Belichick came, we implemented that system, we were good at that. We had the personnel and balance for that. He brought over Mike Vrabel and some other guys and we were all interchangeable. We could do a lot of different things, which made our defense a little more dangerous. Working with the coordinators, learning from guys who did it for a long period of time who were successful and being fortunate enough to work with coaches … Parcells has multiple Super Bowl championships, Pete Carroll is a Super Bowl champion and Bill Belichick, that's seven or eight Super Bowl appearances right there. That's a lot of experience and a lot of coaching when it comes to the linebacker position.
Q: Regarding your personal highlights, fans remember the goal line stop against the Colts and the game against Jacksonville. For you, what are the most memorable moments from your career?
WM:The Indianapolis Colts are the ones we played the most, so I'd have to say that's a pretty big one. Setting the postseason sack record in a single game against Jacksonville, that stands out. But probably the first Super Bowl when I got that holding penalty against Marshall Faulk and I came back, I didn't lay down, I didn't put my head down, and that was the personality of my entire team – just never stop fighting. I came back and got a sack against Kurt Warner to knock them out of field goal position, which I would like to say was instrumental and helped us go on as we won by a field goal. Plays like that, I would say those are my biggest three memories.
Q: How tough is it now for you to be on the other side – to be the media – and have to ask tough questions to players like yourself?
WM:It's not tough. The one thing I try to do is be fair and look at it from both sides. I was a player for 15 years, so I do understand some of the things the players go through. I also understand that I have to be impartial and I can't be biased in certain situations, whether it's a friend or somebody that I know or a team. I've got to call it like I see it. That's probably for most guys one of the toughest things about the transition to the media side that they have to do. For me, I understand that and I own up to it. It keeps me close to the game. It's a great job. I'm still working for the NFL. All the teams now are my bosses instead of just one. So, it's a good situation and it's a blessing to still be around the game and be able to talk football, be able to go in and watch film, go to camp and watch guys develop, watch guys come into the league and become the next NFL star. I have the privilege to be able to do that and talk about it on the air.