Brady was a second-year, second-string quarterback who had been taken with the 199th pick in the 2000 draft when one play changed the destiny of the Patriots franchise. In the second game of the 2001 season, New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe so hard, he sheared a blood vessel in Bledsoe’s chest. The injury would sideline Bledsoe and threw Brady into the starting role. He did pretty well for himself, leading the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI, where they upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams. Over the next decade, Brady would lead the Patriots to three more Super Bowls, winning two, an NFL-record 21-game win streak over two seasons and an undefeated regular season. He also would compile a slew of records and awards, including most touchdown passes in a regular season, two Super Bowl MVP awards and two regular-season MVPs.
Hannah was about to begin his ninth season with the New England Patriots in 1981 when Sports Illustrated proclaimed him “The Best Offensive Lineman of All Time” on its Aug. 3, 1981 cover. Selected with the fourth pick of the 1973 draft out of the University of Alabama (where legendary coach Bear Bryant called him the greatest lineman he ever coached), Hannah became a starter immediately. He formed, along with tackle Leon Gray, what was considered the best left side of an offensive line in the NFL in the 1970s and early ’80s. With Hannah anchoring the offensive line, the Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards in 1978, still an NFL record. In 1991 Hannah became the first Patriots player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Cappelletti played 11 seasons for the Boston Patriots, the first 10 when the team was in the American Football League. He is one of only 20 players who were in the AFL for its entire 10-year existence, and he is the leading career scorer in AFL history. Primarily a place kicker and wide receiver, Cappelletti also lined up as a defensive back (where he once had three interceptions in a game), punt returner and kick returner. In 1964, Cappelletti scored 155 points, the highest total in the 10-year history of the AFL. His total, which included seven touchdowns, 25 field goals, 36 extra points and one 2-point conversion, resulted in his being named the AFL’s MVP. Cappelletti is the only player in the AFL or NFL to run for a 2-point conversion, throw a pass for a 2-point conversion, catch a pass, intercept a pass and return a punt and a kickoff in the same season.
It was tough to get noticed as an outside linebacker in the NFL in the 1980s because of Lawrence Taylor, but Tippett still managed to put together a Hall of Fame career. Taken in the second round of the 1982 draft, the former University of Iowa star became one of the top sack artists in the NFL, setting the Patriots franchise record with 100 sacks. In 1984-85, Tippett produced the highest two-season sack total in league history, recording 35 sacks. Tippett made five Pro Bowls during his career, and was selected to the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team. A panel of former NFL players and coaches named him to Pro Football Weekly’s all-time 3-4 defensive team. The NFL Players Association named him AFC linebacker of the year for three years in a row (1985-87). He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Haynes was a sensation at cornerback for the Patriots as a rookie in 1976 after being selected as the fifth overall pick in the draft out of Arizona State. He intercepted eight passes and led the AFC with 608 yards on 45 punt returns, including the first two punt-return touchdowns in franchise history as the Patriots went 11-3 after nine straight non-winning seasons. At the end of the season he was named to the Pro Bowl for the first of nine times over his career. He also was named the NFL defensive rookie of the year and the UPI AFC rookie of the year. Haynes played seven seasons for the Patriots, during which he made 28 interceptions. He played out his option with the Patriots and signed with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983. He played seven seasons with the Raiders before retiring after the 1989 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.