Former Patriot Willie McGinest was honored on Wednesday night as the defensive end was enshrined into the team’s Hall of Fame in front of a big crowd outside the Hall At Patriot Place Presented by Ratheon.
McGinest, who was the team’s first round pick in 1994, played in four Super Bowls during his time as a Patriot, winning three titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004. He was received warmly by the fans who showed up to watch the ceremony, and signed a ceremonial contract with New England, with McGinest joking with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, “Before I sign, how much?” Kraft laughed and responded, “Not enough, not enough.”
As McGinest spoke to the media he admitted that having his name associated with a select group already enshrined is a great honor, and he’s grateful to be a part of it.
“It is definitely an honor,” said McGinest. “I mean, when you look at all the players that have already been [inducted] … I’m the 22nd player, the 24th member. It’s a definite honor that the writers could put you in, the fans vote you in, your players think as much and all the accomplishments in New England and this organization to be one of the guys that’s sought out as a part of that, a building block, it’s an honor.”
McGinest was one of the key pieces in Kraft’s start of making the Patriots one of the NFL’s powerhouse teams. As the team started ascending up the NFL’s ranks following a playoff appearance in McGinest’s rookie season and then a Super Bowl trip two seasons later, the team’s popularity skyrocketed and the Patriots were back on the map both nationally and here in New England. Locally Kraft was on top of the world, and that fan support was crucial in his eventual ability to build Gillette Stadium next door to the old Foxboro Stadium.
For any who ever experienced what the old stadium was like, Gillette is a completely different venue and it finally gave the team a better facility both for the fans and the players. McGinest admitted that when he first got here he admitted that things were a little rough, but he talked about the fact Kraft had the vision of where this team was headed, and he was glad to be a part of it.
“None of this was here when I got here. I remember getting taped and it was raining and leaks were falling in the old locker room, but it was home. We didn’t know anything different. We didn’t really care. We were a blue-collar team and guys just came to work and did what we had to do.”
“Mr. [Robert] Kraft always had a vision for what he wanted to do with this organization. Me being his first draft pick, you always hear him talk about it, we used to have those conversations and the one thing he said was, “I’m going to make this one of the best organizations in all of sports, not just football, but all of sports.” You see the construction. It hasn’t stopped. I think he’s gone above and beyond expectations not only on the football winning side but just making this a destination for all Patriot fans.”
After departing via free agency after the 2005 season, McGinest spent his final two seasons in Cleveland before calling it quits after the 2008 season. He still holds the record for most career postseason sacks with 16, as well as most sacks in a playoff game with 4.5, which came against Jacksonville back on 1/7/06 against Byron Leftwich in a 28-3 win for New England in the AFC Wild Card Game.
He had a great career and when asked if it went by quick, McGinest admitted that it definitely did, and one message he’s tried to instill in the current players here in New England when he spoke to them recently was just to enjoy every moment, because it obviously doesn’t last forever.
“It did and while you’re playing and you’re grinding and you’re going through everything – it seemed like it would last forever,” said McGinest. “I remember at year ten I was like, “Wow, I hit year ten,” and then 15 rolls around and I’m like, “Where did everything go?” I watch some of these guys now and I talk to them and I tell them to cherish the moment, cherish the opportunity because when you’re done you’re going to look back and see how it’s a big part of your life but it’s a small part of your life as well. It goes so fast.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Foxboro Stadium Gillette Stadium Patriots Patriots Hall of Fame Robert Kraft Willie McGinest