Like spring training in baseball, NFL training camp is all about the future.
For fans, it’s an opportunity to see the team’s new players for the first time and envision a season of boundless opportunity and a deep run in the playoffs.
For players and coaches too, training camp is about the future, albeit, a more immediate one.
“Our long term goals right now are, say, within the next 12 hours," coach Bill Belichick said Friday.
And so, in that light, Monday night’s ceremony seemed all the more special, as the Patriots took time to reflect on and honor two of the most iconic personalities of their past.
In a ceremony outside of the Patriots Pro Shop, former Pats’ linebacker, Tedy Bruschi and veteran radio broadcaster, Gil Santos became the newest additions to the Patriots Hall of Fame.
From 1996 through 2008, Bruschi became one of the most productive players in team history and is firmly entrenched as one of the pivotal figures in the franchise’s incredible stretch of success.
As a team captain, Bruschi helped lead the team to three Super Bowls crowns, 11 seasons with a winning record, nine playoff appearances, eight division championships and five conference titles.
A passionate leader with a relentless drive, Bruschi is widely credited with helping set the team-first tone that defined the Patriots for more than a decade. Patriots Robert Kraft has referred to Bruschi as the “consummate Patriot” and, upon Bruschi’s retirement, the ever-stoic Belichick choked up, and, voice cracking with emotion, described him as a “perfect player.”
Earlier in the afternoon, quarterback Tom Brady referred to Bruschi as the greatest Patriots of all time.
"Tedy is a great player who brought so much enthusiasm to our locker room, our team," said Brady. "He had a very unique personality, a very highly motivated person who had a great work ethic, he was a great leader -- especially for the younger players -- he was a great mentor to the younger guys, including myself. He's one of my best friends. It's really an exciting night for him. We've all had this circled on our calendar for a long time since they announced it."
Lineman Vince Wilfork echoed Brady’s sentiments and stressed Bruschi’s abilities as a leader.
"You don't have to lead all the time by just talking," he said. "Sometimes you have to lead by example, and I think when you talk about leader, there's no better person to turn back and look at than Tedy Bruschi.”
"Bruschi wasn't the biggest guy, he wasn't the fastest guy, but all of his plays seem to come at critical moments in the game when we need a play and boom, Tedy came up with an interception, boom, Tedy came up with a big hit or something," he said. "Those were the things you remember. A great player."
If Bruschi’s 13-year tenure was long, consider Santos, whose retirement in January capped off a broadcasting career that spanned five decades. In 36 seasons behind the microphone, the Fairhaven, Massachusetts native earned the moniker "Voice of the Patriots", calling the action for a staggering 745 Patriots games, including three Super Bowl Championships.
In all his years, Santos missed just one game, a 1971 preseason contest against the New York Jets to attend his father’s funeral service.
With his induction, Santos becomes just the second non-player to be so honored in the Patriots Hall of Fame, joining original owner Billy Sullivan.
He and longtime radio partner Gino Cappelletti are the only broadcast tandem to have called a Patriots Super Bowl victory.
For a guy who talked for a living for half a century, Santos needed just six words to sum up his induction, his career, and his life in general,
“I am a very lucky man.”