FOXBORO, Mass. — Tedy Bruschi had a lot of big plays in his career, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thinks he knows which one was the biggest.
Belichick, who was a surprise guest during Bruschi’s induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Monday, said it wasn’t Bruschi’s interception against Miami in the snow, which sent Gillette Stadium into a snowball-throwing frenzy, that he remembers most. Instead, it was a play that most Patriots fans probably don’t remember.
The play came during an even more famous snow game, against the Raiders during the 2001 playoffs. Oakland had an opportunity to gain a first down, but Bruschi was there to save the day and, in Belichick’s opinion, the season.
“I’m telling you without that play, there wouldn’t have been a lot of those other plays that would have happened that year,” Belichick said during the ceremony. “That was the biggest play of the season.”
There were plenty of stories like this one told about Bruschi and fellow inductee Gil Santos during Monday’s ceremony in front of the Patriots Hall of Fame.
But no matter what story was being told, there was always a singular message — that Bruschi was a tremendous player and teammate.
“There’s great players and then there’s great players, and Tedy Bruschi was a great, great football player, because of his passion, his love, his team attitude towards the game were all second to none,” Belichick said of his former linebacker.
“There is no player that I’ve ever coached that epitomizes a football player — you know when I look at the word football player in the dictionary, you just see Tedy Bruschi’s picture there,” Belichick said. “That’s the best way I can put it.”
Bruschi began his illustrious 13-year career with the Patriots in 1996, when he was drafted in the third round out of Arizona as a defensive end. He was known for his ability to go after the quarterback in college, but the Patriots quickly molded him into a top linebacker in the NFL.
Bruschi made 735 tackles over the course of his career, but that isn’t the most important stat to him. Instead, it was the number of tackles he recorded after suffering a stroke in 2005.
“One number sticks out in my mind,” Bruschi said. “It’s 366. Three-hundred thirty six tackles, that’s the number of tackles I made as a stroke survivor. And I’m proud of that.”
While Bruschi was the star of the event, he waited his turn while Santos, “The Voice of the Patriots,” was inducted.
Both Santos and Bruschi received the red carpet treatment, as they entered the ceremony from the CBS Scene restaurant across from the Hall of Fame. Team president Jonathan Kraft then introduced Santos before the longtime broadcaster made a speech of his own.
Santos talked about his career in Foxboro, which spanned 745 games over 36 seasons in the booth. He was there for all of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins and called each and every game that Bruschi played in.
“Let me assure you, it was never a job,” Santos said. “It was an honor. It was a privilege, and I’m delighted to have been able to do it for all that time.”
When it was finally Bruschi’s turn, the crowd at Patriot Place erupted with a loud chorus of “Bruuuschi.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced Bruschi, saying he knew the linebacker would be an “instant fan favorite” with a name like that in New England.
“For 13 years, he went full tilt, full time,” Kraft said.
It was with that sort of effort that Bruschi earned a hallowed spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame.