FOXBORO, Mass. — Before 2002, Super Bowl teams typically introduced their players one by one, letting each player jog out of the tunnel individually while fans cheered. The New England Patriots changed all that.
The Patriots chose to be introduced as a team that day, and after their 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, a legend was born.
The legend said the Patriots were more of a unified whole than their NFL counterparts. Whether or not the legend was accurate did not matter. What mattered was that they won two more championships in the next three years.
Willie McGinest was back at Gillette Stadium on Thursday to reminisce on the 20th anniversary of his selection by the Patriots, and he was more than happy to feed the legend.
“As far as the fans, it took some time to overthrow the Red Sox and the Celtics, right?” McGinest said. “There was a lot of sports history in this town before we got here. It was a Red Sox town. Let’s just be real. Football was kind of third on that plateau until we started winning games. I just think that hard work, dedication, sacrificing, being committed, it was a team thing to us.
“I was talking with one of our guys earlier, I said, ‘We made the word ‘team’ sexy in the NFL.’ Our group, that foundation we had. That wasn’t popular back then, because it was more about individuals and individual accolades. We kind of put it together, that if we all came together, we could make ourselves as individuals popular, but within the team concept, that you can win and win championships. We gave our fans something to be proud of, something to be happy about, bragging rights. Whenever you faced the Patriots, as outsiders, you didn’t have to like us or love us, but you had to definitely respect us.”
McGinest was the fourth overall pick in the 1994 NFL draft and the first draft pick under Robert Kraft’s ownership. In addition to sharing his memories from his own draft night and days as a player, McGinest raised questions about Jadeveon Clowney and said he would not make the South Carolina defensive end the No. 1 overall pick.