If you can make Bill Belichick choke up, then the least you deserve is a tribute on this blog.
Tedy Bruschi's 13-year run with the Patriots is over. He leaves with three rings, five Super Bowl appearances and countless memories for anyone who has followed New England for the past decade and more.
Noted cyborg and NFL supervillain Belichick called him the "perfect player." You can't find higher praise from a coach who demands maximum effort and maximum intelligence from all his players -- and he got it from Bruschi his entire time here.
While age, mileage and a stroke took their toll on his recent on-field performance, any Patriot fan will always think of the smallish linebacker who, for 13 years, always seemed to be in the right place, who always seemed to make the big play, who always seemed to get the absolute best of his abilities. After Tom Brady, he's the most popular player of the dynasty because he was the everyman, yet he was a relentless torpedo on the field.
My favorite Bruschi memory was the divisional playoff game in 2005 against the Colts when he tore the ball from a running back's hand. It perfectly epitomized what made him so special. To top it off, he pumped me up with some great quotes after the game. For context, remember that the Colts endlessly complained about the AFC title game the year before, claiming the Pats were too rough in the secondary and that they intentionally let the field conditions deteriorate. (Apparently, the weather gets dicey in Massachusetts in January. Hmm.) Basically, they were sore sports and couldn't take their loss like men.
"We play! That's what we do. We don't talk. We play. You come to Foxborough, it's gonna be snowing. It's gonna be cold. C'mon in here! You wanna say all you want? You wanna change the rules? Change 'em! We still play. And we win. That's what we do."
Does any quote sum up what this team is about better? Call them cheaters. Call them meanie-pants. But they never complain about refs or injuries and they never bad mouth other teams unless provoked. They just play. And they usually win.
Just like Bruschi.
His comeback from a stroke is a great story which goes without saying. His reputation as a great family man who truly appreciated the fans is common knowledge. I'll always remember him in the spirit of that great 20-3 drubbing of the "unstoppable" Colts. He was the heart and soul of a defense that won three Super Bowls.
(Though it should have been four Super Bowls.)
Oh, and I'll always remember how he made Bill Belichick choke up. He proved the coach just might be human. Might be his best accomplishment yet.
So long, 54. Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and some Saturdays won't be the same without you.