Good morning everyone. Good thing I am not getting ready to play a game because I would probably not play very well with all the kudos that is being sent out today. I am excited for myself, my family, the organization and in particular Robert Kraft. Many people have asked me why he was chosen to be my presenter out of all the people who I probably could have chosen. I think of all the great things he has done for this organization. How he put himself out there on the line when he made the big investment to buy the team. Winning all these world championships. He has done a lot for the New England area and I think we all are, as fans of New England, very honored by what the team and the ownership have done over the years with bringing a lot of pride to New England. I thought he has never done anything in Canton and that this would be a good opportunity for him to get involved with Canton and have that feeling of being there. I truly believe that after all is said and done, that the contributions that he has brought to the National Football League and the way the league conducts its business, that Robert had a lot if influence on those matters. I think that he, as we all know, has been on a lot of committees and I think his influence is pretty special within the league. It was a no ‘brainer’ for me. With all the contributors and head coaches that have brought something to this great league of ours, that was my reasoning behind asking him to be my presenter. Granted he never watched me play as a owner, but as a fans with his tickets sitting in the old Foxboro Stadium, he got his chance to see me run around the hill a little bit.
Over the years, you know how many times we have written the story of your participation in martial arts and your commitment to it, can you tell me basically how you feel that was incorporated into your game and then what advantages that gave you?
Well for me, applying it to pass rushing was really simple because of pass rushing and playing outside linebacker is hand to hand combat, I’m dealing with a tight end, I’m dealing with an offensive tackle, I’m dealing with a full back that’s trying to kick me out. So my mentality is this is hand-to-hand combat how do I protect myself? How do I use leverage? A lot of it was understanding where I needed to be as a pass rusher, never rushing the middle of a man, always working the edges and the point. If he beats me to the point with his hand, how do I react? Well in the self-defense situation it would be to block and react. I was able to incorporate that in pass rushing as I was coming off the line. I knew that I had to somehow convince the offensive tackle to get out of his comfort zone and come get me, so at that point he was going to be extended with the arms and trying to reach and do things like that. So through my training in martial arts and self-defense applications, I was able to just have fast hands and develop the understanding of leverage and where I needed to be on that person in order to put him in a disadvantage where he basically couldn’t get to me as often as he likes.
Can you describe how your emotions have been going through this process?
I am an emotional wreck today. Without going into great detail, coach [Bill Belichick] had me come in [team meeting]. I wanted everyone in the organization to be there. I really would have loved to have the whole organization in Canton, [OH] but we understand that there’s business to attend to and a season to get ready for. I think Bill [Belichick] wanted the opportunity to basically be in front of the team and share some special intimate time before I took off and it was pretty good. It was awesome, it got a little bit emotional and I’m starting to become an emotional wreck a little bit because it’s here. I think that Howie Long said in his Hall of Fame speech, his Coach reminded him that, you know they showed up so that means we got to play. So for me, it’s here, I can’t prolong another week. I would love to have an extra week to do some things but it’s here. I’m going to be ready for it and I’m excited. When I was named to the Hall of Fame, the first thing that came to mind was ‘who do I thank?’ With all the names, everything just came to me because there were so many people who played a very prominent role in my development from high school, to college and then the pros. I have developed so many relationships over the years with teammates and coaches. There is so much history here in the National Football League and to be part of the Hall of Fame is unbelievable. From a percentage standpoint, 18-20 thousand guys have played at some point in the National Football League and there are about 270 guys that are part of the Hall of Fame. There are probably 240 players without counting the contributors, owners and coaches. Then you’re talking about 240 players and 155 that are alive. Andre Tippett is now part of that and it means a lot to me. This is something you can’t pay for and you can’t be cut from this team. You can’t even quit. To be part of this is the greatest honor there is. There is nothing after this honor - just die.
What does it mean to be representing the New England Patriots with your induction?
To me, this is my badge of honor. I have played with some great guys here. You talk about John Hannah, Mosi Tatupu, Steve Grogan, Stanley Morgan, Steven Nelson, Donnie Blackmon and other guys. There was a lot of pride with what we did. We had about a six-year run. Being with Raymond Berry, and I know John Hannah and Grogan and those guys had their moments and possibilities it just didn’t quite work itself out. For us, it helped with Raymond Berry coming here and being very innovative with how he did things. There were a lot of guys that helped Andre Tippett. There were a lot of coaches. We didn’t scheme a whole lot. We had some good coaches that made us work hard and commit to getting things done. With Raymond Berry’s attention to detail, we were out at practice blocking punts. What are doing this for? In the long run it all paid off for us. There are so many guys that have come here and played hard. There are some great players who have been through New England. By me being the second guy next to Hannah, I mean Mike Haynes and Nick Buoniconti are in as well but they split time at two places, it is really Hannah and I [representing the Patriots in the Hall of Fame]. So many guys who have played with me are so excited because as I go in, they go in. They are part of this. It is going to be a great celebration.
Do you care to share any more details of what happened this morning at the team meeting?
It was about spreading love. That is all it really was. Like I said before, it’s a good thing I am not playing a game Sunday because I wouldn’t be worth anything. With my head, I think I had a hard time getting inside of the press level with all of the accolades. I have run into quite a few Hall of Fame guys over the last couple of months. They told me ‘As the stories grow, you will become this great player that you are.’ Listening to Bill [Bellichick] say the things he said about me, I am honored. Even though it is 15-16 years later, it is awesome to get the confirmation from a guy like him knowing his history, background and the people he has been around at New York to here with the championships. I am very appreciative of him to cosign on me like that because I have great respect for what he has done as a football coach. There is no better football coach than him. For him to stand up in front of you guys and talk about me, I am overwhelmed.
Did you get to a point where it had been so many years that you thought you might never get in the Hall of Fame?
As a player, making the Hall of Fame is not something that is on your billboard. It’s not something that is on your definite career goals. It doesn’t go down like that. Anybody that is in it will tell you the same thing. It’s your body of work, the legacy that you leave behind as a player, work ethic, how you were in the locker room and how you prepared through the week. Those are the things that I did. I saw some of the great guys that were out there and playing at a high level. There were guys before me like Jack Ham, Bobby Bell and Jack Youngblood. I saw all those guys play and I was able to steal some of the things they were doing as football players. Jack Ham was notorious for, and I am not sure how true it is, never being hooked. That is important for an outside linebacker. If you get hooked then you break down your defense. Well I would say ‘I am not going to get hooked and I will wear this tight end out if he tries to hook me.’ You think about all those things. You play the game and you hope at some point there might be a place that you fall into the ranks. I have seen so many highlights and top linebacker lists. I have been on a few lists, I haven’t been on a few lists. But when a guy like coach Belichick says the things that he said, that is all I need.
What does it mean for you to be known for what you do off the field as much as what you did on the field?
Well it is a work in progress. I think that given the opportunity I have been given here with the Patriots, everyone knows I have worn a number of hats in this organization. I have done some coaching and have been involved in pro personnel. Now I am involved in community affairs. This is probably given me some of the greatest joy. Being able to go out in the community and make changes. We do our social responsibility and do what we can. We were in Vermont a couple of weeks ago. We were up in Maine a few weeks ago and we are reaching out to all these people who normally don’t have that access to us. It is about understanding that the second thing Robert Kraft did when he bought the team was establishing the foundation [The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation]. For someone to spend so many millions of dollars and then establish a foundation right after that, says to us that along with playing good football and having a good program, we also want to make changes in the community. Give something back. I enjoy it. I probably enjoy it a little bit more than I did coaching and pro personnel. This truly is a great opportunity to be involved, make some donations and reach out to people. It has been awesome.
What does it mean to you that when people look at the linebackers back in your era then think of Lawrence Taylor and Andre Tippett?
People would probably say that we got it right. There are 17 linebackers in the Hall of Fame. I ratteled off some of the Hall of Fame numbers earlier but when you talk about the ‘80s , there were some great football players then. There are 17 linebackers in the Hall of Fame, which has mostly offensive players. The percentages will stun you when you look at it. I am honored and I feel good about the fact that I am the seventeenth linebacker. It’s cool. I feel so cool. I can’t wait to put that jacket on.
What did you think about the rookies visiting the Hall of Fame this year?
Absolutely, and I think that was a great concept for Michael Irvin to mention to the commissioner. I think that everybody that comes into this league should know something about this great league of ours. There are a lot of people that have paved the way for me before I got into the league. I went through two strikes being in the National Football League in 1982, then 1987 and 1988 but people don’t know that experience. The great players that played in the 1970s, the great Steelers teams and Cowboys teams and so many of those guys that I watched as a young boy. So for guys that come into the league and not have some kind of understanding other than the fact that I am getting paid a lot of money, your doing yourself a disservice. You really truly should understand the people that have came before you, the people that have worked hard so that we all can cherish and endeavor from what they have done.
It wasn’t McMann it was actually Mckinnely the wide receiver and it was not a smart play on his behalf but it was a series of plays that looking back, I don’t think I probably would have done that. I could have hurt myself but you play football. Defensive players the mentality, there is a mindset and especially as a linebacker you just go, go, go, go and what ever happens, happens. You can look back and take an assessment of what happened afterwards. That is how a lot of us played the game and I think a lot of the guys continue to play that way now.
What was your hardest year?
The toughest year probably was 1990. I know Rod Rust took on the responsibility of being the head coach that year. I think that that was tough on him. We all tried to help as much as we could by working hard in practice and giving him 100 percent and not trying to take advantage of the fact that it’s my defensive coordinator and so I am going to take some days off. I think a lot of us were dedicated to working hard and trying to help him help this organization but as you look back now, there were so many holes in the boat that you just did not have enough fingers to stop the leaking and the hemorrhaging that was going on. You have to take your hat off to a guy like that who agreed to take on that responsibility. It was almost a sinking ship before it got going.
Will any of your former teammates be in Canton with you?
Don Blackman, Ed Reynolds, and Johnny Rembert. Larry McGrew is no longer with us; I wish he was around to share this. Steve Nelson amongst other guys. I can’t recall everybody’s name right now but it’s going to be quite a few former teammates of mine that are making there way there; high school and college guys that I played with. It should make out for a special time.
What logo do you prefer, Pat Patriot of flying Elvis?
Wow, that is hard. Well, I have the alumni patch with the old Pat Patriot and the new one. If I had to pick, I just have love for the old Pat Patriot. He just looks like a rugged dude. I would go down a dark alleyway with him any day.
How are you coming along with your speech?
Yes it is. It is so many things that are in play with that whole speech. You have to be mindful and respectful to the people that are sitting and listening. Also you want to make sure you get everybody that you want to thank. I have been really lucky to have so many people that have offered and helped. Some guys from Stacey James office have been working with me on it and we have got it to where we will be able to pull some things off. I won’t get any of the old timers that are sitting there listening. they won’t be mad at me because it won’t be on my watch that I go over my time.
When was the first time you visited the Hall of Fame?
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[In] 1986 we played the Hall of Fame game the year after we went to the Super Bowl. For me I just think that we are in an era of people that don’t really appreciate the history as much as they should and I might be wrong. Sometimes I joke with players and ask young guys, ‘do you know who Raymond Berry is?’ Do you know who Lombardi is? Do you know who Charlie Taylor is and guys will say to me, who?’ If I am playing a position, for me, I always studied all the linebackers, all of the defensive ends and all of the great pass rushers that were here before me. I really took the time to watch and see what they do and how they did it. I truly, truly tried to emulate that from day one. I think that it is something that we all should do and appreciate.