As excited as the current crop of New England Patriots may be to
partake in the team's 50th season, they might not enjoy it as much as
some of the organization's distinguished alumni.
The Patriots, one of eight descendants of the American Football League
celebrating their golden anniversary, will honor their achievement
throughout the course of the 2009 season. Perhaps the most priceless
moment will come during their season opener on Monday Night Football
against the Buffalo Bills, when the Patriots will wear their throwback
uniforms and honor a host of former players during a halftime ceremony.
"It's something that I'm just fortunate enough to be a part of," said former wide receiver Stanley Morgan,
who will take part. "When you're playing, when you first come into the
league, you don't think about those things. But after you've been out
[of the game], and you get a chance to go back and relive some of the
moments that you had while you were there, it's pretty amazing to know
that my name somehow still comes up. I'm very proud of that."
Morgan, who played in New England from 1977-89, caught 534 passes for
10,352 yards and 67 touchdowns as a Patriot, and he is arguably the
best wideout to ever play for the organization.
Morgan's favorite quarterback, Steve Grogan, will also be a part
of some of the festivities. Grogan retired with every significant
passing record in team history, and with 16 seasons of Patriotic duty,
he is also the longest-tenured player in franchise history.
The anniversary is particularly significant to Grogan, who grew up
watching the Kansas City Chiefs, another product of the AFL. He
understands how hard it was for most of those teams to survive in a
league that, for a long time, was considered second-rate. For that,
Grogan appreciates the AFL's pioneers who helped shape what the NFL is
It's even more fitting that Grogan himself was a pioneer of sorts. The
Patriots struggled to gain substantial popularity in their infant
years, as they cycled through stadiums, struggled in the standings and
fought for their fans against the New York Giants. Grogan, a
hard-nosed, electrifying quarterback, became a marquee player in the
area because of his exciting style of play and his ability to carry his
team to victory.
"It's not only the organization, but the AFL itself," Grogan said.
"It's pretty cool the way they evolved and became a part of the
National Football League and survived — most of the teams and the
Patriots included. I grew up in the Kansas City area, and that was my
first real exposure to professional football, the Kansas City Chiefs of
"The fact that I was a part of the Patriots for so many years is pretty neat to me."