For Ty Law, it’s the chance to bring a legendary career full circle.
The cornerback, who is one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame, admitted Wednesday that when it came to how things ended with the franchise, it was a less than ideal scenario.
After playing 10 years with New England, he left as a free agent following the 2004 season. He ended his career with brief stints with the Jets, Chiefs and Broncos (and retired following the 2009 season), but it was a bittersweet final act for one of the best defensive backs of his era.
“I’d be the first one to admit now, I’m older, wiser, more mature, that if I could have done something all over again, I would have tried my damnedest to stay in New England and finish my career,” he said on a conference call with New England media.
“Not that I have any regrets about the teams that took me in as far as the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs — I’m thankful for the opportunity. I think I said this early in my career; I would have loved to start and finish my career with the Patriots. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have made more effort to stay a Patriot.”
Now, Law has the opportunity for a final farewell. It was revealed Wednesday that he’s one of three finalists for the Hall of Fame, a class that includes cornerback Raymond Clayborn and former coach Bill Parcells. (Fans can vote on the finalists for the next month at Patriots.com.)
Law was a three-time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), a four-time Pro Bowl player (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003) and a two-time All-Pro (1998, 2003) during his tenure with the Patriots. Law tied Clayborn’s career franchise-record with 36 interceptions and finished with the most interception-return yards in team history with 583
Law, who said he was “speechless” when he was informed that he was a finalist, said, ‘it would mean a lot’ if he gets the nod.
“It will put the icing on the cake, as far as my playing career with the Patriots, and give some validation to me that I’m appreciated by the fans, they still care for me and they show me that with my business on and off the field and it just puts a stamp of approval [from] Patriot Nation,” he said. “I’m really humbled by that to even be considered with the great Bill Parcells and Raymond Clayborn, who was such a great player and spent so much time in New England. I’m honored just to be considered and on the list with those two guys.”
Law is in terrific company — Clayborn and Parcells are worthy finalists, and the fact that the fans can only choose one will lead to some difficult decisions for New England fans. Law has plenty of good things to say about his fellow finalists on Wednesday.
“Coach Parcells, he drafted me. He believed in me, he pushed me in the beginning of my career so I was able to get to this point today. I owe a lot to Coach Parcells for being the guy that took a chance on a young cornerback from Michigan,” Law said. “He used to ride me so much to bring out the best in me. I give him so much credit, especially in the beginning because he rode me like no other. He saw something that I didn’t see. He had the ability to do that with a lot of players but there was something about the way he helped mold me even if I thought he was wrong, he was right.
“I’m always indebted to him for believing in me. I know it was a combination of both but on the field, every day interaction with Coach Parcells, he was the one who helped me in the beginning and he helped me last this long because some of his words that he told me as rookie stick with me to this day. If I see Bill Parcells, I’m still sucking in my gut because he’s liable to say something about it. There’s always that insecurity that makes you step your game up and I think that was his goal.”
As for Clayborn, Law said he speculated that if Clayborn wasn’t in the Patriots Hall of Fame, “How the Hell am I going to get in?”
“You can’t help but look at a guy like that and say it’s his time, he deserves it, he’s waited long enough,” Law said of Clayborn, who has been nominated in the past, but will be a finalist for the first time this year.
“We heard about how he might have been overshadowed by Mike Haynes but I think it’s long overdue,” added Law. “He’s definitely worthy and deserving of being in the Patriots Hall of Fame as far as I’m concerned. Numbers don’t lie and he has them. When people talk about Raymond Clayborn, you don’t hear anything but positive. You never heard anything negative about Raymond Clayborn. I think that’s the mark of a true Patriot, at least from my era when I was there, how the Patriots conducted themselves, how Mr. Kraft ran his program, put the right people in place. He would have been able to fit in in my generation, my era and would have been a standout All-Pro as well.”
Law has always maintained close ties to the franchise, and is excited to see how the acquisition of Darrelle Revis will impact the New England secondary. The two played a single season together with the Jets in 2008, but according to Law, the relationship between the two started long before they reached the NFL. The two have deep roots in Aliquippa, Pa.
“I knew Darrelle when he was in Pop Warner. I was close with his uncle, Sean and his family overall,” Law said. “We’re a tight-knit community around Aliquippa. Sports kind of led us to the same path, like it has a lot of other kids in Aliquippa. Being that I was so close to Sean growing up, it was natural to establish a relationship with Darrelle. I’d say it goes years beyond us playing in the NFL.
“To watch him grow and become one of the best defensive players in the game, the best defensive back in the game, is amazing because I’ve seen this kid playing Pop Warner. He was special then but to see what he’s been able to accomplish right now, it feels like I’m still out there playing. I know his roots and I know his soul, I know his effort and I know what he brings to the table. I’m living through Darrelle vicariously while he’s out there playing.”
For Law, Revis has grown into the best cornerback in the game. Law believes that the Patriots are getting at upgrade.
“With no disrespect to Aqib Talib — who is a great corner himself — but Darrelle is a special talent,” Law said. “Not only are you getting experience, you’re getting extreme confidence. You’re getting a person who is not afraid to put it on the line at the end of the game. Darrelle, he wants to be in that position of covering the top guy week-in and week-out, down-in and down-out. He goes to the inside if need be. He’s the type, if he wasn’t on the guy he would let the coach know it. I think that’s the mark of a true competitor, someone who is striving to be a champion. The way he practices, by playing with him for the year that I did, to be so talented, but to practice so hard, you don’t see a lot of young guys that have so much talent take the job that seriously because they’re so talented.
“That’s what I think separates Darrelle — he’s not taking his talent and his abilities for granted,” Law added. “He still wants to go out there and prove that he’s the absolute best week-in and week-out. He’s not taking that for granted. He wants to be the best for a long time. I have never seen anyone as competitive as Darrelle Revis. That’s the honest to God truth. He made me, as a veteran, pick my game up in practice. If I slacked off, I’d look at this kid right here, he doesn’t even know pro football yet and he’s outworking everybody. He motivated me at the end of my career.”