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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #49: Tedy Bruschi

I love middle linebackers as much as I love fullbacks. These are the guys who go looking for trouble on defense, who can stuff the run or cover in the flat or break on a late blitz and get the quarterback. The NFL has seen its share of great mikes: Butkus, Singletary, Lambert, Nitschke. Some guy for the Ravens was an absolute killer too. But my favorite has to be number 54 for the Pats.


Bruschi had more than just a name that sounded like a midwestern beer. He had drive, strength, leadership, and heart. (More on that heart later.) As an undergraduate at Arizona he tied the collegiate record for sacks with 52, and yet because of his stature he dropped to the third round of the 1996 NFL draft where the Patriots nabbed him.


His career started out with a trip to the Super Bowl. Bruschi was one of those Pats who began with Parcells and Bledsoe and later formed the nucleus of the first half of the Brady/Belichick dynasty. Bruschi, Vinatieri, Law, McGinest, Brown. Bruschi had two sacks as a rookie in the title game loss to the Packers, but he'd later find three championship rings on his fingers.


Bruschi only made one Pro Bowl in his 13 year career, but his value to the Patriots defense was unequaled. He had a knack for the timely turnover, finding the end zone on four of his 12 career picks. Who can forget his pick-six against Miami in the snow in 2003, sealing a playoff berth en route to another Super Bowl?


That single Pro Bowl selection came after the 2004 season. Shortly after playing in that Pro Bowl, Bruschi suffered a stroke. He was diagnosed with patent foramen ovale, a hole in the atrial septum of the heart that can lead to strokes and sudden death. (A decade later I would discover that I had the same congenital defect, leading to open heart surgery that would save my life.) Bruschi recovered and returned to the Pats that season, eventually being named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.


He's a football analyst for ESPN now, a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, and the unforgettable heart of that early-2000s defense that secured three Lombardi trophies for New England.

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