There I was in 1996 sitting on the couch as I do every year at draft time. I donned my Patriots garb watched with anticipation for each pick that my Patriots would make. With the 25th pick in the third round, the New England Patriots selected a speedy and undersized linebacker from Arizona University, Tedy Lacap Bruschi.
At the time, I can tell you, there wasn't one person in New England that knew the impact this young man would have on the landscape of the sports in this area.
When I watch the NFL now, I see a lot of prima donnas trying to make their sport a "me" sport. This league is filled with players like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson who seem to be money hungry, spotlight greedy, and fame worshippers. These are athletes that will put themselves ahead of the team any day of the week for either monetary reasons or to be in the spotlight.
Then stands, Tedy Bruschi.
This 32 year old inside linebacker has set his place in history in stone as one of the all-time ROCKS of the New England Patriots. The amount of hurdles this man has gone through to get to where he is today would be overwhelming to most. Coming out of college he was listed as agile but not having the skills to succeed as a linebacker in the NFL even though he led the team in college with 52 quarterback sacks, tying a NCAA division 1-A record. When he arrived in New England and donned a Patriots uniform he remained relatively unknown to fans for most of his first years. He persevered and has slowly, but surely become a fan favorite here in Foxboro.
After winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots, did you ever think that he could come off of his cloud as the captain of the defense? Most would think not but, Bruschi was sidelined by a stroke after the 2004 Pro Bowl in February of '05, actually about a week after. He sat out until midway through the 2005 season, as most Pats fans know all too well. This warrior battled and came back from that adverse situation and made a HUGE impact on the team and on the fans themselves. Last year when he suited up for his return against Buffalo in week 8 and put on the old number 54, it made brought some to tears. What a show of heroism.
When you look at Bruschi's stats here in NE, you don't see the greatest and most elite numbers for linebackers. But, Tedy has two things that are not listed on the stat books. They are called instinct and heart.
I think that is one of the main reasons that we feel such a kinship to number fifty-four. We see a man who has battled through tremendous hurdles to fight each week and put everything he has on the field. We can relate to him more than anybody else. If you ask any Patriots fan who their favorite player is, you will here his name ring loudly and often.
It might be what I call the "Rudy" effect. When you count someone out because they don't fit the mold of a superstar and it seems as if they are always battling an uphill climb, you tend to root for them more than anyone else. You "feel their pain" and relate to everything they have to overcome to get to the goal.
"Tedy Bruschi is a microcosm of the Pats, an overachiever who keeps making plays he's not supposed to be able to make." - Bill Reynolds, the Providence Journal
On Sunday, against the New York Jets, we saw it again. This man from Roseville High did it one more time. He came up big when it counted. He is the "Big Papi" of the New England Patriots. He comes up with big plays time and time again. Whether he is breaking up a pass to a wide open D. Blaylock when no one thought he would get there, or intercepting the deflected ball at the end of the game while having a cast about the size of Fred Flinstone's club on his hand, this guy gets it.
Instinct. Pure, unadulterated Instinct.
How refreshing is it that after the Deion Branch fiasco we can always turn back to our fearless, unselfish leader. It is always a breath of fresh air to see him running around like a madman recklessly, always being "Johnny on the spot".
To take a quote from Pepper Johnson's book, Won For All, "This is 'Mr. Heart. Tedy was slated to be a backup when the season began. He stepped in when others were hurt and became part of our three-man inside linebacker rotation. He finished the season as our starting middle linebacker and continued to play outstanding football despite a lingering back injury." This might show a little bit of his fortitude and dedication.
So, from the bottom of the heart of this life long Pats fan, I say thank you Tedy Bruschi for your hard work and diligence. You make watching football even more exciting than it already is!
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.