The Patriots will honorWillie McGinest at halftime of Thursday night's AFC East battle with the Miami Dolphins to celebrate his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. McGinest became the 23rd player to receive the honor during a celebration in Foxborough in August, and the defensive end/outside linebacker will address the crowd as part of Willie McGinest Night on Thursday.
With Big Mac set to enjoy his big night, here are five great moments from his memorable career.
5. RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE – McGinest always had a knack for coming up big when it mattered most but he was never better than he was during a 2006 wild card win over Jacksonville at Gillette Stadium. McGinest set an NFL postseason single-game record with 4.5 sacks to lead the Patriots past the Jaguars, 28-3.
4. PRIME TIME PICK-6 – There were early flashes of brilliance for McGinest as well and one came during a Sunday night encounter with Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills in 1996. In the midst of a Super Bowl season, the Patriots had just rallied late to take a 3-point lead but Kelly still had time to tie it. With the ball near midfield, McGinest stepped in front of a Buffalo receiver and picked off Kelly's pass and returned it 46 yards for the clinching touchdown to avenge an earlier defeat.
3. OPENING NIGHT HEROICS – The Patriots began their Super Bowl defense on opening night in 2004 against Peyton Manning and the Colts. New England was clinging to a 27-24 lead in the closing seconds when McGinest made a huge play to help preserve the victory. Manning faced third down from the Patriots 18 with 49 seconds left when McGinest sacked him for a 12-yard loss. The play forced Mike Vanderjagtto attempt a 48-yard field goal to tie, and the kicker pushed it wide right as the Patriots held on.
2. MARSHALL PLAN –Super Bowl XXXVI featured the plucky Patriots defense against the Rams Greatest Show on Turf. The plan called for McGinest to make life miserable for Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, and he did just that. McGinest hit Faulk on virtually every play whether he had the ball or not, and Faulk was largely ineffective. McGinest also turned in a huge 16-yard sack of Kurt Warner as the Patriots went on to win their first title.
1. WILLIE'S LAST STAND –Perhaps McGinest biggest play as a Patriot came in one of the biggest regular-season games in team history. The Patriots and Colts were locked in one of their many shootouts and it appeared as if Manning would pull off an epic comeback. Trailing 38-34 he had the Colts at the Patriots 1-yard-line with just one play remaining. Manning handed the ball off to Edgerrin James, only to find McGinest waiting for him after shooting off the edge to drop him in the backfield. The win allowed New England to host the Colts in the AFC title game en route to their second Super Bowl title.