Tag Archives: former New England Patriots

Remembering Patriot DT Houston Antwine

John Morgan
April 11, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

Houston Antwine was born on April 11, 1939; he would have been 78 today. He was one of the best players in football history that is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Antwine is also the greatest player in Patriot history that most Pats fans don’t know about.

Antwine played in 142 games over eleven seasons for the Patriots. 270 pounds may not be big by today’s standards, but in 1961 it was. Houston Antwine was a man among boys, constantly commanding double or even triple teams by opposing offenses. He wasn’t just some big slug though; Antwine was extremely athletic, using skills he had acquired as a collegiate wrestling champion. ’Twine was not only strong but also very quick on his feet, and nearly impossible to move out of the middle. He was also a well-rounded, versatile player; not only devastating against the run, but also tenacious on his pass rush, totaling 39 sacks in his career and leading the Pats in sacks three straight years.

“Houston Antwine was the kind of football player you don’t forget if you ever saw him, but he’s the kind few remember today because he did his playing before ESPN highlight shows existed. If they had, ‘Twine would have been a staple because he was everything you wanted in a defensive tackle — Warren Sapp before there was a Warren Sapp, but without the need for volume control.”

Antwine was an AFL All-Star six straight years, and was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team. Now stop and think about that for a moment. If a player that was named to the NFL’s all time team of the decade for say the 1990’s or 2000’s that also went to six consecutive Pro Bowls, would there even be any discussion as to whether or not he should be voted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Probably not. Yet Antwine earned identical honors that just so happened to be at an earlier time. Why was he be penalized for that?

Perhaps the biggest reason is because it took far too long for his own team to honor him. The Pats set up their team Hall of Fame in 1991. John Hannah was the original inductee, in the same year he became the first Patriot enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The following year Nick Buoniconti and Gino Cappelletti got their bust at Patriot Place. Antwine was more deserving these two legends though. Buoniconti is more well known for his championships in Miami rather than his seven seasons with the Patriots. As good as Cappelletti was he was never the league’s premier player at a position the way Antwine was.

Legitimate cases can be made for those three, but not for the next group. In 1993 the Pats’ HoF added three more players from the sixties. Nothing against Bob Dee, Jim Lee Hunt or Babe Parilli, but Houston Antwine was a far more dominant football player. In terms of the Hall of Fame the Patriots were ‘on to the seventies and eighties’ after that, for all intents done with AFL-era players.

Houston Antwine

Yes, the Patriots eventually did add Antwine to the hall in 2015. Sadly it was four years after he passed away. He deserved to go in twenty-plus years earlier, while he was still alive. So why did that not happen? His play on the field was such that he deserved to be the first player after John Hannah to enter the Patriot Hall of Fame.

Rumor has it that some of the old time writers did not care for him. Maybe he wasn’t friendly enough with the old guard and they held a grudge. He was one of 22 players to boycott the 1965 AFL all star game in New Orleans, where Jim Crow laws and blatant racism still prevailed; maybe that protest against conditions there had something to do with it.

Regardless of the reason, it started a vicious circle. The thought process was that if Antwine’s own team would not honor him, he couldn’t have been good enough for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – who already were showing an obvious bias against consideration for AFL players.

More time passed, and fewer and fewer writers and fans were old enough to remember or appreciate Antwine. The thinking of those nominating and voting for for the Patriot Hall of Fame mirrored that of those voting for enshrinement to Canton. On the rare occasion his name was brought up it was quickly dismissed. The sentiment was that ‘he couldn’t have been that good if all these other old timers are in and he is not’.

Commencing in 2011 a ten-person senior committee was formed. They were scheduled to convene and have the option of adding one Patriot that had been retired for at least 25 years. It seemed like such a no-brainer; Antwine surely would finally be honored in Foxboro. He had already been a finalist three times, futily up against more recent and recognizable players. Incredibly his election still did not happen. Jon Morris was a good guy with a nice career but he was not close to the same level of player as Houston Antwine. Apparently the old time writers refused to let go of whatever grudges they were holding on to.

In December of 2005 Antwine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease was allegedly caused by repeated blows to the head from his playing days, back when concussions were just “dings” and players were expected to just shake it off and keep going. Houston Antwine passed away in December of 2011 at the age of 72, a few months after Morris was inducted to the Pats Hall of Fame. The senior committee must have felt a bit of remorse; they then voted Antwine in the next time they met.

 

Fan voting for the Patriots Hall of Fame will commence in the next few days. Hopefully Pats fans will carefully consider “forgotten” players such as Raymond Clayborn, and not simply cast their ballot for the most recently retired nominee.

New England Patriots History: Happy Birthday Charlie Weis

John Morgan
March 30, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

Today in New England Patriots history we say happy birthday to Charlie Weis. He was part of the Pats coaching staff for eight seasons. Weis earned three Super Bowl rings as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for Super Bowls 36, 38 and 39. He won another ring as part of Bill Parcells’ staff when the Giants beat the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl 25.

 

Charlie Weis, Patriot coach 1993-96 and 2000-04

Charlie Weis, 61 (3/30/1956)

Weis was a Patriot position coach for four years and offensive coordinator for five seasons. He owns four Superbowl rings and has 36 years of football coaching experience.

After 11 years of high school and college coaching, he joined Bill Parcells’ New York Giant coaching staff in 1990. After three years with the Giants he rejoined Parcells in 1993 in New England. In 1994 as TE coach Ben Coates was an All Pro with career highs of 96 receptions and 1174 yards receiving. The next season as RB coach rookie Curtis Martin rushed for 1487 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 1996 as WR coach rookie Terry Glenn had a career-high 90 receptions, and 1132 yards receiving.

Weis followed Parcells out of town the next year to work for the Jets. Bill Belichick added him to his newly formed staff in New England in 2000 as offensive coordinator. As the OC Weis had a critical role in Tom Brady’s first NFL season as starting quarterback. That 2001 season of course culminated in the first of five (and counting) Patriot Superbowl victories. His neophyte quarterback went on to become the best there ever was.

Charlie Weis

Not a flash in the pan, Weis earned two more rings in Super Bowls 38 and 39. He left New England to become head coach of Notre Dame in 2005. Later he was the OC for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010, OC for the Florida Gators in 2011, and head coach at Kansas from 2012-14. Though he may be bored now that he is no longer working, his family should be set for generations thanks to buyouts.

 

Dave Chapple – Punter, 1974

Dave Chapple, 70 (3/30/1947)
Uniform #10

Chapple was a productive punter and kicker at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 1966 he kicked ten field goals, which would have been an NCAA record – but Jan Stenerud kicked 13 the same year. Chapple was an All-American and selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1969 draft. A slipped disc delayed his football career and he eventually signed with the Bills in 1971.

The following year Chapple joined the Rams and was named to the Pro Bowl, averaging 44.2 yards per punt. Perhaps even more impressive is that his net average was almost the same, 42.1 yards per punt. In one game at Soldier Field he averaged over 50 yards on his five punts.

Chapple’s punts started losing distance though, perhaps due to the bad back. He went from LA to New England in 1974. With the Patriots he averaged 35.4 yards on 26 punts, and did not play in the league again. In 40 NFL games he averaged 40.2 yards on his 162 punts.

Going back to his youth Chapple was very interested in painting. Over the last 40-plus years he has been an accomplished artist, particularly in oil paintings and sculptures.

Dave Chapple art

The Painting Punter

Dave Chapple – Island International Artists

 

Chris Canty – CB, 1997-98

Chris Canty, 41 (3/30/1976)
Uniform #26

In the first year of the Pete Carroll era the Patriots selected Canty with the 29th pick of the 1997 draft. That choice by Bobby Grier, with Bill Parcells no longer over his shoulder, would go down in infamy as one of the worst draft picks in the history of the franchise. Canty seemed to put more effort into his excessive celebrations over insignificant plays than in becoming a productive player. The Pats jettisoned Canty after just two seasons and he was out of the NFL two years later. He later spent four years playing Arena football.

Chris Canty

 

Notable NFL players born today include:
Lomas Brown (54), 7-time Detroit Lion Pro Bowl LT
Richard Sherman (29), Seahawks CB
Billy Cundiff (37), most well known for this kick:

 

Today in Pats History: Happy Birthday Chris Long

John Morgan
March 28, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

Happy Birthday to Chris Long, who headlines March 28 in New England Patriots’ history.

 

Chris Long, 32 (3/28/1985)
Patriot DE, 2016
Uniform #95

The Longs are one of the premier NFL football families. Chris’ father Howie is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his brother Kyle is a starting RG for the Bears. At Virginia Chris Long was a unanimous All-American and first team All-ACC. He was also the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Ted Hendricks Award for the nation’s best defensive end. The St. Louis Rams selected Long with the second overall pick of the 2008 draft.

Long was a steady starter on a solid Ram defense for several years. However he missed ten games in 2014 with an ankle injury and four more in 2015 due to a knee injury. Upon his return Jeff Fisher kept William Hayes as his starter, leaving Long as a situational reserve. The Rams had previously restructured Long’s contract which created a cap number of $14 million for 2016. Not surprisingly he was cut as one of several cap saving moves.

Long visited with Dallas, Washington and Atlanta, and then signed a one-year deal for $2 million with the Patriots on March 18, 2016. Having previously cashed in with two large contracts, Long was secure with leaving some money on the table in order to play for a Superbowl contender.

After eight years of wallowing in St. Louis Ram mediocrity, Long finally not only experienced a winning season but also the playoffs and a Superbowl victory. Though it did not show up in the stat sheet Long did have key plays in the improbable comeback victory over Atlanta. On one key play his bull rush over Jake Matthews applied pressure from the right, so Matt Ryan could not turn that way. This was on Dont’a Hightower’s oft-replayed strip sack and fumble recovered by Alan Branch. That play may have been a big reason why Long was able to draw Matthews into a holding penalty on the subsequent drive. That flag resulted in a loss of ten yards and kept Atlanta out of field goal range. It was one of several plays that was the difference between a Superbowl win or loss.

Long played in every Pats game in 2016, with seven starts. However his playing time decreased as the season progressed. In the first eight games Long was in for about 70% of the defensive plays, averaging 49 snaps per game. Down the stretch that dropped to just over 50%, averaging 34 snaps in the final six games of the regular season. In the playoffs Long had 27 snaps versus Houston, 20 plays (29%) against Pittsburgh and then only 15 snaps in the Superbowl. With that in mind it is understandable that he has elected to explore other options in free agency. Long finished the season with 35 combined tackles (22 solo), four sacks, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. Despite his short time in Foxboro all of Patriot Nation is grateful for his hard work and contribution.

Off the field the Chris Long Foundation’s signature project is The Waterboys. It unites NFL players and fans to raise awareness and funds with a goal to install 32 deep borehole wells in East Africa. Each well costs $45,000 and serves up to 7,500 people.

3/28 12:05 pm update: Long has reportedly signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Reche Caldwell – Patriot WR, 2006

Reche Caldwell, 38 (3/28/1979)
Uniform #87

Like many pro athletes, Caldwell excelled in multiple sports as a youth. In high school he threw 77 touchdown passes and also set several school records in baseball. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 but opted to play football instead. Caldwell stayed in state and went to the University of Florida. There he played for Steve Spurrier at the end of the Fun-n-Gun era. On offense he played alongside future NFL players such as Rex Grossman, Jabar Gaffney and Earnest Graham.

Caldwell finished his junior year with 65 receptions for 1,059 yards and ten touchdowns. San Diego then selected him in the second round of the 2002 draft, 48th overall. He spent four years with the Chargers, never quite living up to his draft status. Over that span Caldwell had 76 catches for 950 yards and seven touchdowns.

Following the 2005 season Patriot free agent David Givens signed with Tennessee. Troy Brown would soon turn 35. Depth at the wide receiver position needed to be replenished, and the Pats signed UFA Caldwell. At the same time Deion Branch was in the last year of his rookie contract. He held out and was eventually traded after lengthy and bitter negotiations. Rookie Chad Jackson injured his hamstring in training camp. Rather than being a third or fourth option at WR, Caldwell was suddenly by default forced to be the primary receiver.

In that 2006 season Caldwell had 61 receptions (on 101 targets) for 760 yards and four touchdowns. The playoffs started well as he caught 12 of the 15 passes thrown his way over two games, for 130 yards. That included a TD against his old team in a 24-21 victory at San Diego.

2006 AFCCG at Indianapolis

Reche Caldwell Eyes

Caldwell was targeted nine times against Indy, catching just four passes. At one point Caldwell muffed a perfectly thrown pass in the corner of the end zone. Then with under ten minutes to go and the score tied, Caldwell was left uncovered on a botched Colt defensive assignment. Brady threw to Caldwell for what should have been an easy catch and an 18 yard waltz into the end zone. Caldwell became overanxious and turned too soon – even though no defender was remotely close to him – and dropped the ball. Two plays later he was unable to catch another pass and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal. The Colts came back to win the AFCCG 38-34. The NFC was weak that year; the winner of that game was the defacto Superbowl champion. It was a huge missed opportunity for the Patriots.

Bill Belichick retooled his offense the following season with the additions of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Caldwell was cut on September 3, 2007 and spent one final NFL season with Washington. His post-NFL career did not go well.

Caldwell returned to his old Tampa neighborhood and opened up a gambling parlor. His problem was that it was successful, and he never considered that perhaps he should keep a low profile. After the inevitable arrest for bookmaking and running a gambling house, Caldwell posted bond. He kept hanging out with his old crew and saw how popular Ecstasy was at the clubs. Caldwell made the absurdly foolish decision to buy some Molly over the internet as his next business venture. That resulted in a 27-month prison sentence.

How Reche Caldwell Googled his way from the Patriots to prison | ABC News

 

Greg ‘Truck’ Moore – Patriot LB, 1987

Greg Moore, 52 (3/28/1965)
Uniform #54

The 6’1, 240 lb linebacker went to college at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He was one of the replacement players in 1987 when the NFLPA went on strike. Moore started in all three of those replacement games, with one fumble recovery.

With his brief NFL career over, Moore returned to his native Georgia. He is the owner of Elite Realty Specialists.

Greg Moore

 

Bryan Wagner – Patriot P, 1991 and 1995

Bryan Wagner, 55 (3/28/1962)
Uniform #8 and #9

Wagner was with five different teams over nine season in the NFL. With the Browns in 1997 he led the league in number of punts with 97; the following season he led the NFL with four punts blocked. He signed with the Patriots in 1991 but was released after three games. Wagner was averaging a mere 29.1 net yards on his 14 punts.

The Patriots re-signed him in 1995. He punted 37 times over eight games, with a carer-high 42.1 yards per punt. He now teaches phys ed and is a high school football coach in Ohio.

1/12/1986: Bryan Wagner Is Alive and Hopes to Be Kicking in the NFL

1/25/1995: Super Bowl XXIX : Persistence Lands Him on His Feet

5/31/2005: Ex-punter lands coaching job

 

Steve Doig – Patriot LB, 1986-87

Steve Doig, 57 (3/28/1960)
Uniform #59

Doig is a New England native. He was born in Melrose, played hockey at North Reading High School and went to the University of New Hampshire. At UNH he was the ECAC player of the year. Detroit selected Doig in the third round of the 1982 draft, 69th overall. Over three seasons with the Lions he appeared in 34 games with four starts.

The Patriots signed Doig in 1986, after he had not played at all the previous season. He played in five games for the Pats in ’86, and one more in 1987. Doig also appeared in the playoff loss to Denver following the 1986 season. The Pats waived Doig on September 8, 1987.

Doig’s biggest highlight came in the last game played at the Orange Bowl. In the ’86 season finale Doig recovered a fumbled kickoff to give the Patriots the ball at the Miami 24. On the next play Craig James fumbled the ball away, and Tony Eason injured his shoulder making the tackle. Steve Grogan replaced Eason and later threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan with 44 seconds remaining. That gave the Patriots a 34-27 victory, and the AFC East title.

 

Lonnie Farmer – Patriot LB, 1964-66

Lonnie Farmer, 77 (3/28/1940)
Uniform #55

Farmer played in 31 games over three seasons for the Pats, but his carer was cut short by a knee injury. This is from the 1966 Patriots Media Guide:

This rebel belter from Lookout Mountain, Tenn., enters his third pro season with best prospects ever … lost last season with a knee injury … otherwise would have been a regular … is one of the surest, toughest tacklers on Patriots team … is one of Coach Holovak’s best on the suicide squad … was brought to Boston’s pros by fellow Chattanooga alumnus Charley Long … was Williamson All-American and AP second team All-American in ’63 … has a real taste for action … intense competitor … injury free season could give Lonnie a shot at All-Star honors.

Lonnie Farmer
Left to right: defensive tackle Jim Lee Hunt, safety Ron Hall, and linebacker Lonnie Farmer.

 

Other NFL notables born on March 28 include:
Geno Atkins (29), five-time Pro Bowl DT for Cincinnati Bengals.
NaVorro Bowman (29), four-time All Pro LB for San Francisco 49ers.
Derek Carr (26), two-time Pro Bowl QB for the Oakland  Las Vegas Raiders.
Jim Turner (76), AFL-AFC kicker for the Jets and Broncos

 

There is only one March 29 Patriot birthday, so I will insert it here.

Chris Calloway – Patriot WR, 2000

Chris Calloway, 49 (3/29/1968)
Uniform #82

Calloway is most well known for seven years with the Giants. He was their leading receiver for four straight years. Calloway had receptions in a team record 47 straight games, and at the time he ranked third in franchise history with 334 receptions. He was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1990, but only spent two seasons with the Steelers.

In 1999 the Giants released Calloway, attempting to get younger and also save money. Calloway signed a $4 million contract with Atlanta, which was very big money at that time. He caught only 22 passes and the Falcons let him go after one season.

During training camp in 2000 Bill Belichick axed Vincent Brisby and signed Calloway. By that time though he was 32 and his best days were behind him. Calloway appeared in seven games with two starts for New England. He had only five receptions for 95 yards while with the Patriots. The Pats cut him on October 21, 2000. Calloway finished his NFL career with 386 receptions for 5497 yards and 30 touchdowns.

11/28/2009: Former New York Giants wide receiver Chris Calloway trying to hang on

Chris Calloway

 

Other NFL notables born on March 29 include:
Earl Campbell (62), Houston Oiler Hall of Fame running back.
Ryan Kalil (32), Carolina Panther five time Pro Bowl center.
Justin Tuck (34), two time Pro Bowl defensive end.

 

Today in Pats History: Happy Birthday Justin Coleman

John Morgan
March 27, 2017 at 9:00 am ET

Justin Coleman is one of five players in New England Patriots history to share today’s birth date. Here is a look at March 27 in Pats history.

 

Justin Coleman, 24 (3/27/1993)
Patriot CB 2015-
Uniform #22

Coleman started 38 games over four seasons at the University of Tennessee from 2011-14. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie but was cut near the end of training camp. Soon after Coleman was involved in four transactions over a six day period. The Patriots signed Coleman and then released him a day later. Seattle signed him to their practice squad. Bill Belichick apparently really liked Coleman though. With a spot available when Bryan Stork was placed on injured reserve, BB gave him a raise and signed Coleman to the 53-man roster.

In 2015 Coleman appeared in twelve games with two starts. He appeared primarily as a nickel back and was on the field for 45% of the defense’s snaps. Coleman finished the season with 17 tackles and five passes defensed. He also had seven tackles in the two playoff games. The following April the Patriots signed the exclusive rights free agent to a one-year, $525,000 contract.

Coleman played a bit more on special teams last year. He participated in 292 snaps over the course of the 2016 season. With the addition of Eric Rowe however, Coleman’s playing time dwindled. He appeared in only three games after the week 10 loss to Seattle and was a healthy inactive for each of the three playoff games. On March 16 Coleman signed his ERFA tender, a one-year deal for $625,000.

 

David Key, 49 (3/27/1968)
Patriot Safety, 1991
Uniform #26

Key led his Ohio high school team to a state championship in 1985. Surprisingly he turned down an offer from Ohio State and instead went to Michigan. While there he collected three Big Ten Championship Rings. The Wolverines finished in the top ten three times in his four years in Ann Arbor.

The Patriots selected Key 140th overall in the sixth round of the 1991 draft. He spent most of the season on the practice squad after being released in training camp. Key was activated for the final three games, appearing exclusively on special teams. In week 15 Key recovered a fumble in a 6-3 victory over the Jets.

Key decided to no no longer pursue an NFL career after he was released again prior to the 1992 season. With a degree in kinesiology he began his second career as a personal trainer. He is the owner of Key Body & Fitness Corporation and a professional body builder.

 

David Bavaro, 50 (3/27/1967)
Patriot LB, 1993-94
Uniform #52

The Danvers native is the brother of former Giants TE Mark Bavaro. David Bavaro was the leading tackler at Syracuse, when Dick MacPherson coached the Orange. The Phoenix Cardinals selected Bavaro with the 225th overall pick in the ninth round of the 1990 draft. After splitting time with the Cardinals, Bills and Vikings, the Patriots signed Bavaro in 1993. That season he played in twelve games, which was Bill Parcells first year with the Pats. Bavaro finished with one defensive tackle, six special teams tackles and a fumble recovery. The following year he started five games, with twelve defensive tackles.

In 1995 Bavaro signed with New Orleans as a free agent, but did not make the roster. He now teaches at Malden Catholic High School.

 

Gene Chilton, 53 (3/27/1964)
Patriot Center, 1990-92
Uniform #63

Strongman Gene Chilton was an integral part of a formidable offensive line that blocked for Earl Campbell at the University of Texas. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Chilton in the third round (59th overall) in the 1986 draft, the first center drafted that year. He played in all 16 games and was named to the All-Rookie team, splitting time between center and left guard. The Patriots picked Chilton up in 1990 and he was their starting center before a knee injury landed him on IR. Chilton started all 32 games at center for the Pats over the next two seasons.

With knee injuries taking a toll on his body, Chilton retired in 1993. Over three seasons he appeared in 36 games for the Patriots with 35 starts.

 

Jerry Patton (3/27/1946-5/20/1983)
Patriot DT, 1975
Uniform #72

Patton was named MVP at Saginaw High School in not just football, but also basketball and track. He was then a three-year starter at defensive end at Nebraska. Undrafted, he played semi-pro football in the Continental Football League for two years. In 1971 Patton bucked odds and landed a spot on Minnesota’s roster. He started all but one game over the next three seasons, two with Buffalo and one in Philadelphia. He appeared in the final three games of the 1975 season for Chuck Fairbanks’ Patriots, but did not play in the NFL after that.

Patton then returned to Saginaw where he was active in community affairs. He was a president of the Saginaw Athletic Club, ran a Sickle Cell Celebrity Golf Tournament, organized a Midget Football League, and ran sports clinics at schools and rec centers. After a lengthy illness Patton passed away at the age of 37.

Video: Remembering Jerry Patton

 

Other March 27 birthdays of former NFL players include Eagle QB Randall Cunningham (54), four-time Pro Bowl MLB Mike Curtis (74) and three-time Charger Pro Bowl LG Doug Wilkerson (70).

Happy Birthday to New England Patriots Kyle Van Noy, Eric Kettani

John Morgan
March 26, 2017 at 11:00 am ET

The Duke, Gino Cappelletti is not the only Patriot born on March 26. Kyle Van Noy and Eric Kettani are also among a group of present or former Boston/New England Patriots to be born on this date. Mr. Patriot is such a significant story of the Pats that he deserved his own column. Here is a look at other Patriots born today.

 

Kyle Van Noy, 26 (3/26/1991)
Patriot OLB, 2016-
Uniform #53

Van Noy was a versatile high school athlete who lettered in four sports. His senior year he had ten tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, 14 sacks and a pick six. Van Noy also caught 35 passes 731 yards and 18 touchdowns. After leading his team to a 14-0 record and state championship he was recruited by more than a dozen colleges, choosing BYU.

At Brigham Young he registered 226 total tackles, 62 tackles for loss, 26 sacks, 17 forced fumbles and seven interceptions. The Detroit Lions drafted him in the second round of the 2014 draft, 40th overall. Things got off to a bad start almost immediately.

Van Noy suffered the first injury of his football career in training camp. After undergoing surgery he missed the first eight games of the season. Upon return he was used sparingly. Van Noy was on the field for a mere 54 defensive snaps the final nine games of the season (including a playoff game) and finished the season with six total tackles.

The writing was on the wall. At the following year’s combine Detroit GM Martin Mayhew had this to say when asked about Van Noy’s future:

“That’s totally up to him. He can have a huge role if he has a great offseason and plays great. If he doesn’t have a great offseason, and doesn’t play great, then his role won’t be as big.”

“I think a lot of times with young players, not him specifically, but they come from a place where they’ve been great players and super stars and then they come into a new team and now they have to work their way up and play special teams and do things they didn’t do in college. Sometimes that’s an adjustment. But really, it’s totally up to him as to how he performs and how he is feeling and all those things.”

A Detroit beat writer speculates that due to injuries to DeAndre Levy and other Lion linebackers, Van Noy was asked to do too much too soon. After seven games with varying roles Van Noy was traded to New England on October 25, 2016. The Patriots gave up virtually nothing for the linebacker. The Pats only had to move down slightly (24 spots) very late in the draft for his services. Detroit received just a sixth round pick (215th overall) in exchange for Van Noy and a seventh rounder (239th overall).

Van Noy began his tenure with the Pats as a healthy scratch while learning a new defense. Just over three months after being unceremoniously dumped, he was celebrating a Superbowl victory. By season end Van Noy was on the field for as much as 82% of the snaps, and recorded six tackles and half a sack in the playoffs.

 

Eric Kettani, 26 (3/26/1991)
Patriot FB, 2009-12, 2015
Uniform #44, #34, #36

The 5’9″ 240 pound back was one of three players from Navy that the Patriots signed as undrafted free agents in May of 2009. All had to fulfill their military commitments first, and Kettani was activated from the Pats’ Reserve/Military list in May of 2011. He was released as part of the final camp cuts that September, then signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.

In October he was denied leave from the Navy and had to return to active duty, but the Patriots re-signed him the following spring. Kettani was then cut again at the end of camp in 2012. The Pats added him to the practice squad on September 1, but released him four days later to make room for OL Jeremiah Warren. Kettani later spent time on practice squads with Washington, Kansas City and Jacksonville.

The Patriots re-signed Kettani in August of 2015, but was let go later that month as part of roster cutdowns. Kettani rejoined the Naval Academy in 2015, working in the Public Affairs Office. He also paints, selling his artwork online.

 

John Cagle, 70 (3/26/1947)
Patriot DE, 1969
Uniform #62

Cagle was a first team All-ACC defensive tackle at Clemson in 1968. The Patriots took a flyer on 6’3″ 260 lb lineman, drafting him 344th overall in the 14th round of the 1969 draft. Clive Rush originally planned on converting Cagle to guard or linebacker and he impressed enough to end up on the taxi squad. Half way through the season he was promoted to the active roster and appeared in six games at defensive end. Cable returned for the 1970 training camp, but those six games were the extent of his NFL career.

 

Bill Murphy, 71 (3/26/1946)
Patriot WR, 1968
Uniform #31

Murphy attended Cornell, where he set Ivy League single-season records with 50 receptions for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. He was Cornell’s MVP in 1967, and his 163 yards receiving against Harvard was a school record that stood for 25 years. The Patriots signed Murphy in 1968 as a rookie free agent but he was released in training camp. He joined the the Lowell Giants of the old Atlantic Coast League. With things going south in his final season as head coach, Mike Holovak signed Murphy to the roster.

Although not blessed with blazing speed, Murphy had good moves and sure hands. Murphy played the final six games of the 1968 season for the Patriots, starting five times. He ended up with 18 receptions for 268 yards, averaging 14.9 yards per reception. In week ten he had four receptions for 72 yards at Kansas City, and followed that up the next week with four catches for 74 yards against Miami. Murphy returned the following summer but did not make the 1969 roster.

With his pro football career over Murphy put his Ivy League education to good use. He worked on Wall Street, specializing in commodities futures and later opened his own brokerage firm. In 1998 he co-founded the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, where he is the chairman. That organization was organized to expose, oppose, and litigate against collusion to control the price and supply of gold and related financial instruments. Murphy still works as a financial adviser, specializing in investments in gold and silver.

 

Jimmy Raye, 71 (3/26/1946)
Offensive Coordinator, 1990

Raye had a very brief NFL career, appearing in two games over two years with the Rams and Eagles. He then spent six years as a college assistant coach. In 1977 he began a 37-year career as an NFL coach. Over that time he changed teams fifteen times with titles ranging from position coach to offensive coordinator to senior offensive assistant.

1990 was the bottom of the abyss in the history of the Patriots. Raye was the OC of a team that went 1-15, distracted by the Lisa Olson scandal.

Incredibly that is not the most embarrassing mark on Raye’s résumé. He is currently a senior adviser to Roger Goodell’s right hand man and mouthpiece, NFL vice president Troy Vincent. How he lives with himself, I do not know.

 

Happy Birthday to The Duke, Gino Cappelletti – Mr. Patriot

John Morgan
at 7:00 am ET

Happy Birthday to The Duke, Gino Cappelletti. Mr. Patriot turns 83, born on this day in 1934 in Keewatin Minnesota. With all due respect to the GOAT, nobody embodies the entire history of the Patriot franchise more than this legend. His absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is shameful, something that will hopefully be rectified before it is too late for him to be honored in person.

After a two year stint in the Army and some time playing football in Canada, Cappelletti was one of hundreds of players to tryout for the Boston Patriots. On September 9, 1960 he kicked a field goal at Nickerson Field for what would be the first points scored in an American Football League game.

When he retired eleven years later he had scored an AFL record 1,130 points. At that time the only NFL player with more career points were Hall of Famers Lou Groza and George Blanda.

Cappelletti was incredibly versatile. In that 1960 season he was a starting cornerback. For the next three years he was the Pats starting split end, and then was the team’s starting flanker for the next four years. Of course he handled the kicking duties as well from 1960-1970. Cappelletti caught 292 passes for 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns, picked off four passes and kicked 176 field goals in his storied career.

For those who played prior to the 16-game schedule Gino holds the second and third most points in a single season. Those 155 points in 1964 and 147 points in 1961 are the most in AFL history, and still to this day rank in the top 25 in NFL history. He also holds the AFL record of 28 points scored in a single game. Cappelletti holds the pro football record for points per game over six consecutive seasons (9.5), points per game over 11 seasons (7.5), and percentage of a team’s points over eight seasons (34%).

The Duke was a five-time All-Star and AFL MVP in 1964. His versatility is perhaps best exemplified by a milestone that will never be broken. In 1960 he ran for a two-point conversion, completed a pass for a two-point conversion, caught a pass, intercepted a pass, returned a punt and returned a kickoff. Nobody in pro football history has ever before or since accomplished that feat. In 1992 Cappelletti became the second player to be enshrined to the Patriots Hall of Fame, and his number 20 is now retired.

His contributions to football did not end with his retirement at age of 36 prior to the 1971 season. Mr. Patriot became the voice of the Pats, providing the commentary for Patriot radio broadcasts for 28 years. He also did Boston College games, and was the voice famously proclaiming ‘he caught it, he caught it, I don’t believe he caught it!‘ on Doug Flutie’s miracle Hail Mary touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984.

Considering all of this, can anybody honestly justify how people like Jerry Jones, Bill Polian or Kurt Warner are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – but Gino Cappelletti is not?

I didn’t think so.

 

3/25 Pats History: Happy Birthday Stephen Belichick, Glenn Gronkowski

John Morgan
March 25, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

Today in New England Patriots’ franchise history we celebrate the birthdays of Stephen Belichick, Glenn Gronkowski, Niko Koutouvides, Luther Henson and Willie Porter.

 

Glenn Gronkowski, 24 (3/25/1993)
Patriot FB, 2016-
Uniform #47

At Kansas State Gronk’s younger brother was a second team All-Big 12 and first team Academic All-Big 12 in 2015. The Bills signed him as an undrafted rookie and he made the 53-man roster. Buffalo cut him the day after a week one loss to Baltimore, replacing him with Jerome Felton in a move to insure the veteran’s contract was not guaranteed.

A week later the Patriots worked out Gronkowski and several other players, and eventually signed him to the Practice Squad on October 1. Glenn won the Pats 2016 Ventrone Award, signed to the Practice Squad four times and released three times over the course of the season. He will have another opportunity this summer as the Patriots signed him to a futures contract on February 14.

Kansas State Sports: Glenn Gronkowski

Glenn Gronkowski transactions

1/28/17: Glenn Gronkowski having a blast in his first season with Patriots | Providence Journal

1/31/17: Glenn Gronkowski finally speaks | Boston Globe

2/14/17: Patriots sign Glenn Gronkowski, again | Pro Football Talk

 

Stephen Belichick, 30 (3/25/1987)
Patriot coaching staff, 2012-

The Hoodie’s son attended Rutgers where he played lacrosse for four years and then was a walk-on long snapper for Greg Schiano. The younger Belichick came on board in Foxboro, spending four years as a coaching assistant. In 2016 linebackers coach Patrick Graham departed New England to work for the Giants. Brian Flores shifted from safeties coach to linebacker coach. At that point Stephen Belichick was promoted to fill the vacant position as safeties coach.

2011 Rutgers Football Media Guide

1/20/2015: What does Bill Belichick’s son do for the Patriots? | NFL.com

5/10/2015: Bill Belichick Adds Son, Steve, To Pats’ Coaching Staff, Promotes Patricia To Defensive Coordinator | CBS Boston

3/8/2016: Steve Belichick promoted to Patriots safeties coach | Mike Reiss – ESPN

1/18/2017: Steve Belichick’s First Season As Patriots Position Coach Has Been A Success

1/31/2017: Steve Belichick comfortable following in his father’s famous footsteps | nj.com

 

Niko Koutouvides, 36 (3/25/1981)
Patriot LB/ST, 2011-2012
Uniform #46 and #90

At Purdue the linebacker was a first team All-Big Ten and teammate of Drew Brees and Matt Light. He was taken by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Koutouvides spent four seasons with the Seahawks, one in Denver and two in Tampa Bay, developing his niche as a standout special teams player.

The Patriots signed him in August of 2011 but was let go at the end of training camp. The Pats re-signed Niko in November the day after Albert Haynesworth was released, and he remained with the Pats for the rest of the season. In 2012 he was once again released at the end of camp and then re-signed, this time appearing in 14 games. In August of 2013 the Pats cut Koutouvides just prior to the start of the season. That marked the third straight time he had been released by the Patriots just before the start of the season. He finished his Patriot career with one start in 22 regular season games, and also appeared in five playoff games. Overall he played in 125 NFL games over five years, plus 13 post-season games – including two Super Bowls.

In 2013 Koutouvides became a principal and co-founder of Skala Partners, a real estate investment, development and management company in southwestern Connecticut.

For more on this former Patriot and New England native check out Mike Reiss’ 2011 ESPN column, Football Journey: Niko Koutouvides.

 

Luther Henson, 58 (3/25/1959)
Patriot DT, 1982-1984
Uniform #70 and #60

A two time All-Big 10 defensive tackle at Ohio State, Henson originally signed in his home state as an undrafted rookie with Cincinnati. After being cut by the Bengals, Ron Meyer in his first year as New England’s head coach signed the big man to fortify the defensive line. Henson made an impact, upgrading the interior pass rush. The defense allowed six fewer points per game from the previous season and the Pats improved from 2-14 to a playoff berth in ’82.

Henson played in 21 games over three seasons for the Patriots, registering three sacks. He later returned to Ohio, joining former college teammates in a successful auto dealership and is now Sales Director at a company in Columbus.

 

Willie Porter, 71 (3/25/1946)
Patriot CB/KR/PR, 1968
Uniform #27

At Texas Southern he was a speedy flanker and kick return man, playing in the same offense with four other future AFL or NFL players. Porter also excelled at track in college as a sprinter and hurdler. College teammate Leroy Mitchell, who was an All Pro corner for the Pats in 1968, recruited Porter to come play for the Patriots as an undrafted rookie.

Porter’s pro football career got off to a great start In the first game of the 1968 season at Buffalo he ran the second half kickoff all the way back to the Bills’ 45 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage R.C. Gamble (who was filling in for an injured Jim Nance) went the distance for a touchdown. That gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, 10-7. More importantly after a lackluster first half those two plays gave the Pats a much needed spark and momentum. The defense responded with big turnovers and shut Buffalo out in the second half and the Patriots won, 16-7.

Mike Holovak converted Porter from offense to corner, just as he had done with Mitchell. Porter was utilized primarily on special teams, leading the Pats in punt returns and kick returns, totaling 949 all purpose yards. That turned out to be Porter’s only season in the league. Later he became a high school assistant coach at Jackson, Michigan.

 

Patriots History: Happy Birthday Richard Bishop, Sammy Morris

John Morgan
March 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

Today’s installment of the history of the New England Patriot franchise includes seven birthdays. Most notable among this group for their play on the field are defensive lineman Richard Bishop and running back Sammy Morris. First though we begin with an original Boston Patriot who lived long enough to see the Pats win a Superbowl unfortunately did not quite live long enough to see the Pats win a Super Bowl.

 

Abe Cohen (3/23/1933-3/8/2001)
Uniform #62
Cohen attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, competing on the Mocs’ football and wrestling teams. In 1954 he won his conference’s weight class as a wrestler. A year later Cohen was drafted late (26th round, 306th overall) by the New York Giants, but never played for them. After two years of military service Cohen spent two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.

In 1960 Cohen joined the fledgling American Football League with the Boston Patriots under head coach Lou Saban. Though not a starter Cohen appeared in all 14 games for the Pats that year, backing up Charley Leo and Jack Davis at guard. Cohen was inducted in to the UT-Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and to his native Luzerne County (PA) Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Chattanooga Football Media Guide

Bolling Air Base Wins 1957 Shrimp Bowl

Jews In Sports – Abe Cohen

Abe Cohen Obituary

Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame

 

Richard Bishop (3/23/1950-9/2/2016)
Uniform #64
After high school Bishop spent two years in junior college before transferring to Louisville. He was selected in the 5th round of the 1974 draft by Cincinnati but never played for the Bengals. Bishop spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders before finally signing with the Patriots as a free agent at the age of 26 in 1976.

Bishop was an impact player as a rookie, helping the Pats make the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years. He played a major role in one of the most famous (or more appropriately, infamous) plays in franchise history. That ’76 team was a juggernaut, finishing the season on a six-game winning streak. The offense averaged 27 points per game and 5.0 yards per carry and the defense was equally productive, forcing 50 turnovers. The Patriots won the division made the playoffs as an 11-3 wild card team, and met Oakland in the playoffs; the Pats had pummeled the Raiders earlier in the year, 48-17.

The officiating in the game was a travesty. Oakland was permitted to get away with one non-call after another. All world tight end Russ Francis was the primary target for the Raiders. On one play George Atkinson broke Francis’ nose with no flag thrown, and on another key play he was so blatantly held by Phil Villapiano that he could not raise either arm – again with no penalty called.

The non-call led to a long missed field goal with the Patriots up by four with four minutes remaining. Oakland drove but after a Mel Lunsford sack and two incompletions the Raiders were faced with a 3rd-and-18. The defensive play call was for a stunt with Bishop drawing defenders and leaving an open lane for Ray Hamilton. Ken Stabler got the pass off just as he was about to be sacked, but Ben Dreith flagged Hamilton for roughing the passer even though replays showed that was the incorrect call.

Back to Richard Bishop. He was a very solid player for the Pats, appearing in 86 games with 50 starts from 1976-81. While he is not a member of the Patriots All-Decade Team of the 1970’s, to me he was good enough to earn at least an honorable mention.

In 2014 Bishop was one of fifteen players to file a federal lawsuit against the NFL for negligence and purposeful concealment of knowledge that a direct relationship existed between concussions and the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS. Richard Bishop passed away six months ago at the age of 66.

 

Mark Buben, 60 (3/23/1957)
Uniform #63
After an outstanding collegiate career at Tufts, the Auburn MA native remained local and joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 1979. He made the roster his rookie season as a backup defensive end and special teams player, appearing in all sixteen games. After spending all of 1980 on Injured Reserve Buben again appeared in all 16 games, this time with four starts. His 49 yard interception return was a key play in New England’s week 5 victory over the Chiefs, one of the few bright spots of that disappointing season for the Patriots.

Buben signed with the Browns in 1982 and then played in the USFL for four years. He still holds school records at Tufts for sacks in a single season and career.

 

Jason Staurovsky, 54 (3/23/1963)
Uniform #4
Staurovsky’s path to becoming a kicker was unique. At the University of Tulsa he went from team manager to kicker, and he eventually set a school record with 53 field goals. Like many kickers he was not drafted and had tryouts with multiple teams. In 1987 he was signed for two games with the Cardinals as a replacement player, and a year later he was in Boston to try out for the New England Steamrollers of the Arena Football League. While there he asked for, and received a workout for the Patriots. The Pats had drafted Teddy Garcia in the fourth round but up to that point he had been awful. Raymond Berry liked what he saw – Staurovsky made 22 of his 23 attempts – but was not yet ready to pull the plug. Soon after Berry could not take any more of Garcia (he finished the season making just six out of 13 field goal attempts) and signed Staurovsky.

Greg Davis replaced Staurovsky as the kicker in 1989 but when he came down with food poisoning Staurovsky was re-signed for the last half of the season, making 14 of 17 kicks. In 1990 he finally remained on the roster for the full season – remaining upbeat despite what was happening around him – and was the sole kicker in training camp in 1991. Late in the season he pulled his quad muscle and was placed on IR. New England signed Charlie Baumann and stuck with him the following year, and Staurovsky’s career with the Pats was over. In 40 games with the Patriots he kicked 50 field goals, which at that time was fourth most in team history. A 1990 50-yard field goal was the longest in franchise history at the time; that record stood for twelve years before Adam Vinatieri booted a 57-yarder in 2002.

 

Scott Lockwood, 49 (3/23/1968)
Uniform #40
The running back was an 8th round pick (204th overall) in 1992, which was Dick MacPherson’s final year as head coach. He was mostly used on special teams, but did have 35 rushes for 162 yards (4.6 yards per carry). He appeared in two games for Bill Parcells in ’93 and also spent time in NFL Europe.

For more on Lockwood, including his days at USC and his post-football career, check out this article. As is often the case with bottom of the roster players Lockwood bounced around quite a bit.

Where are they now – Scott Lockwood

“Drafted by New England in the eighth round (when they had eight rounds) after the 1991 season,” Lockwood answers, “then traded to Detroit, then they waived me, picked up again by New England, then moved on to Seattle before being injured and going on IR,” Lockwood says.

Wow, lots of back and forth over your career?

“That was the first eight weeks,” Lockwood says with a laugh. Yes, his NFL career was an interesting, and something of a whirlwind time for the 196-pound running back and special teams guy who could fly. His best times were a 10.54 100 meters and a 4.34 in the 40.

“We could all run on those USC teams.”

 

Sammy Morris, 40 (3/23/1977)
Uniform #34
Morris joined the Patriots in 2007 at age 30 after four years in Buffalo and three in Miami. The running back teamed with Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk in the Pats backfield but appeared in only six games, landing on IR with a chest injury. The following year he led the Pats in rushing yardage (727 yards) and rushing touchdowns (7), averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. In 2009 Maroney received the most playing time and Morris’ playing time dwindled as he had only 92 touches, gaining 499 yards from scrimmage. The following season he saw even less playing time with the additions of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Although he appeared in all 16 games Morris had noticeably slowed down and he had just 20 carries in his final year with the Patriots.

Sammy Morris finished with 1,486 yards rushing for the Patriots, which ranks 22nd in team history. Morris also ran for 12 touchdowns, which ranks 23rd in New England history. Over his 12-year NFL career he totaled 4,311 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns. Since hanging up his cleats he has worked as a comedy writer and joined the coaching staff at Attleboro High School as the Special Teams Coordinator and Running Backs Coach.

 

I could find only one March 24 Patriot birthday, so I will insert it here.

Don McComb, 83 (3/24/1934)
Uniform #85
Unfortunately I found very little information on McComb other than a single line in some old newspaper clippings from his college days. At 6’4″ and 240 lbs he was big for his time, but his pro career consisted of one game at defensive end in 1960 for the Patriots. Prior to that he attended Villanova and he was drafted by the Giants in the 21st round (249th overall) of the 1956 NFL draft.

 

Last but not least it is worth noting that on March 22, 1971 the team officially became known as the New England Patriots. For a brief period of time Billy Sullivan declared the team would be known as the Bay State Patriots, a jab at the City of Boston over failed negotiations to build a football stadium there. Problem was that Sullivan had not considered the initials of the team would be the BS Patriots, and thankfully the NFL rejected the name change. A month later the club was renamed the New England Patriots.

Patriots History: March 21 Birthdays

John Morgan
March 21, 2017 at 7:28 pm ET

It is a long slow off-season so let us commemorate the history of the Patriots’ franchise with birthday salutes. Today’s entries dig deep into the archives. Kudos if you remember the majority of these players.

 

Clyde Washington (3/21/1938-12/29/1974)
Uniform #31
The Purdue grad was drafted by the Browns in 1960, but instead played with the Patriots in their inaugural AFL season. Washington was the starting left corner, opposite Gino Cappelletti; he also filled in for four games as the team’s punter. He played all but one game in the Pats’ first two seasons, collecting seven interceptions.

Washington played the next three seasons for the Jets, then became their assistant director of player personnel from 1966-69. In 1970 he became an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Washington passed away too early at the age of 36 from a brain tumor in his native home town of Carlisle PA.

For more on Washington check out this article, focusing on his stellar high school career:

Local natives hit the big time playing for the NFL | History | cumberlink.com

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Jack Rudolph, 79 (3/21/1938)
Uniform #80
Rudolph was drafted by the Lions in 1959 out of Georgia Tech, but never played for Detroit. Except for time missed due to injury he was a Patriot starting linebacker from 1960-1965. Miami selected Rudolph as part of their expansion draft and he finished his pro football career with the Dolphins. He had some interesting comments about those days.

Rudolph recalls early days of Super Bowl | Valdosta Daily Times

It’s really enjoyable to see the teams I was an original part of having so much success now-a-days,” said Rudolph.

The game was a lot different when Rudolph played. The AFL was the upstart league. It was more wide-open, with a lot more throwing, and a lot of play-making on defense. All of it was just to attract more fans to the stadiums.

Looking at the troubles expansion teams have today, can you imagine how it was to play for two of them in the 60’s?

“It’s hard for people to understand how it was back then,” Rudolph said. “The Dolphins put 250 guys through training camp to evaluate talent. The practices were long and hard and on a make-up field. After a few weeks, everyone was getting real cut up. The doctors didn’t know what was going on until someone looked at the field. The field was dirt put over seashells.”

So what could a linebacker from that hard-nosed era possibly see in today’s football? Is there a player today that could stand out to someone who was game-planned around so much back then.

“Almost every team has someone you can look at and say ‘wow,’” said Rudolph. “The linebackers today are kind of a down defensive end and a big cornerback. It’s a more specialized position.”

“Back then, if you were a really good linebacker, they put you on offense!”

After his pro football career ended Rudolph went on to become one of the nation’s premier high school football coaches.

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame needs a reality check | Savannah Morning News

Jack Rudolph has been overlooked for 10 years now. I’d vote Coach Rudolph in and ask the committee to apologize to the guy. He is the perfect example of a deserving honoree. Born and bred in Georgia. Competed in Georgia. Never left Georgia, except to play pro ball.

Jack was an outstanding football player at Georgia Tech. He played for the Boston Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. Upon retiring from the NFL, he joined the great Wright Bazemore’s staff at Valdosta High School and remained the defensive coordinator for 31 years. Coach Rudolph could have coached on any level. He elected to settle down in Valdosta, raise a family, and coach high school ball.

Coach Rudolph’s defenses helped lead the Valdosta High Wildcats to 11 state championships in 31 years. Half of his defenses allowed 7 points or less. In those 31 seasons, they allowed 8.3 points per game. Rudolph’s defenses shut out the opponent 119 times. Bazemore, Charlie Greene, Nick Hyder and Mike O’Brien got most of the credit, but this man was a major reason why Valdosta High has this outstanding national reputation.

He excelled in high school, college and the NFL. He invested 31 years in high school football. Coach Rudolph impacted hundreds of young lives along the way, myself included. I learned defense from Coach Rudolph, by listening to him coach during practice. I was far ahead of the curve when I arrived at Georgia as a freshman.

If it sounds like they take their high school football seriously in Valdosta you are correct. Rudolph ended up in his wife’s doghouse after his defense gave up only seven points in a loss to a crosstown rival.

Bragging Rights: The best high school football rivalries are long-running little civil wars. | Georgia Trend

It was October 1977. Rudolph, defensive coordinator for the mighty Valdosta football team, had just watched his unit play one of its best games of the season. Unfortunately, hated crosstown rival Lowndes High School was a little better that Friday night, posting a 7-2 win over the visiting Wildcats.

“That was the first time Lowndes had ever beaten us,” Rudolph says. “It was a pretty big deal.”

“That was always really important when I was playing and coaching,” says Rudolph, who grew up in Atlanta but married a Valdosta girl, Marsha, who was a cheerleader at Valdosta High and who stared righteous daggers at her husband that October night in 1977.

“When she [my wife] got home, she had a bad look on her face, asking me why we did this and that. The whole family was really upset with me,” Rudolph says. “My dog Blue jumped into my arms and licked my face, happy to see me when I got home. As the conversation with my wife went on, I said, ‘I wish there was one more person in this family who loved me as much as Blue does.’ So she said, ‘OK, we’ll get you another dog.’

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Paul Gipson (3/21/1946-1/16/1985)
Uniform #46
Gipson was a standout running back for the University of Houston, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. A two-time All-American, he was a major force that resulted in the Cougars achieving their best ever season and a number two national ranking. The Atlanta Falcons selected him in the second round (29th overall) in the 1969 draft.

The collegiate success never transferred to the pros however – although to be fair the Falcons were pretty horrid at that time. In his rookie season Gipson led the NFL with 8 fumbles. He was traded to Detroit after just two seasons and landed in New England two years after that. His brief career with the Patriots was rather inglorious: five game, five carries, one fumble and a net of minus-one yard rushing.

Reading between the lines Gipson’s lack of success in the NFL was likely due to substance abuse. In 1974 he stated that he was “starting all over” after battling alcoholism, playing in the inaugural season of the World Football League. In 1984 Gipson was sent to prison on drug charges. Three weeks later he was shot, and three weeks after that Gipson was found dead on a sidewalk.

UH Wins Game of the Century, 100-6 | Houston Chronicle

Houston Athletics Announces 2012 Honor Class | University of Houston Athletics

Paul Gipson Obituary | New York Times

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Hason Graham, 46 (3/21/1971)
Uniform #81
In 1994 the Georgia Bulldogs possessed one of college footballs best offenses. On a team that included Terrell Davis and Hines Ward, Graham led the club that season in touchdowns, receiving yards and yards from scrimmage. At 166 pounds however most felt he was too slight to make it in the NFL. He signed with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent, and made the final roster as a wide receiver.

In his second season the Patriots met Green Bay in the Super Bowl. Bill Parcells (with his mind apparently more focused on his next position with the Jets) inexplicably included Graham as part of the game day actives over Troy Brown. Parcells had more brain locks when he elected to not only kickoff to Desmond Howard, but to also include Graham as part of the kick coverage unit. Graham was predictably unable to fulfill his assignment on special teams and Howard went untouched through the lane Graham was supposed to handle en route to a 99-yard game clinching touchdown.

Graham never played another NFL game; he was cut by Pete Carroll the following August. In 19 games over two years he tallied 15 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns.

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Hason Graham Bio | University of Georgia Athletics

Pats Cut Graham, Brown | The Standard-Times

 

Asante Cleveland, 25 (3/21/1992)
Uniform #44
The 6’5″ 260 lb tight end from the University of Miami was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco in 2014. Cut at the end of training camp he bounced between the 49er practice squad (ten games) and 53-man roster (six games).

On August 18, 2015 the Patriots traded offensive lineman Jordan Devey to San Fran for Cleveland. Cleveland was cut at then end of training camp and re-signed to the Pats’ practice squad. In late November he was promoted to the 53-man roster, providing depth at tight end after injuries to Michael Williams and Rob Gronkowski. Cleveland was released on Christmas Day (c’mon Bill!) and signed by San Diego three days later; he is still on the charger roster now. His final stat line with the Patriots is one reception for one yard (his only NFL catch to date) in four games played.

New England Patriots sign TE Asante Cleveland from practice squad | MassLive

Football Journey: Patriots never lost track of TE Asante Cleveland after 2014 draft | Mike Reiss – ESPN

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Ty Law Named Finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Morgan
January 3, 2017 at 11:39 pm ET

Former New England Patriot corner Ty Law has been named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

The Pats drafted Law 23rd overall in 1995 out of Michigan. Law is one of a select few to have won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. His pick-six off Kurt Warner and the heavily favored St Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 is an iconic moment in New England sports history.

 

Law was named to five Pro Bowls and was twice a first team All Pro. He was named to the Patriots’ All-Decade Team for both the 1990s and the 2000s, and was also selected to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team. In 2014 Law was honored as a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.

 

In 1998 Law led the NFL with nine interceptions, and again led the league in 2005 with ten picks. Law finished his career with 59 interceptions, including six in the post-season. Five of those playoff picks came against NFL golden boy Peyton Manning. Further proof of how Law shone bright in the clutch is evidenced by 25 of his interceptions coming in the month of December.

 

Other finalists for the 2017 Hall of Fame class include running back LaDainian Tomlinson. LdT seemed to be a polar opposite of Ty Law when it came to games that took place after Thanksgiving – but he’ll still probably get enshrined in his first year of eligibility. Defensive end Jason Taylor and safety Brian Dawkins are two others on the ballot for the first time.

 

The fifteen finalists will be pared down once more to a group of no more than five. WR Isaac Bruce, G Kevin Mawae and OT Tony Boselli join Law in advancing this far for the first time. WR Terrell Owens, K Morten Andersen and G Alan Faneca were in the round of 15 last year, and return for another shot at Canton.

 

Former head coach Don Coryell, RB Terrell Davis, OT Joe Jacoby, S John Lynch, and QB Kurt Warner are also on the final 15 last. That group made it to the final ten a year ago.

 

As part of a separate voting process Paul Tagliabue and – no, this is not a misprint – Jerry Jones have received nominations as well as contributors. Safety Kenny Easley was also nominated by the veteran’s committee.

 

Notable names missing the final cut include HC Jimmy Johnson, LB Clay Matthews Jr, S Darren Woodson, S Steve Atwater, LB Karl Mecklenburg, OT Chris Hinton, RB Edgerrin James, WR Torry Holt and WR Hines Ward.