TL: Thank you, I appreciate it. I appreciate you too, man, for speaking up and sharing why you thought I should be one of the finalists and be in the Patriots Hall of Fame [to Mike Reiss on speaking in the vignette on Patriots.com]. I just want to thank you personally for that as well.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned you were one of the finalists?
TL: I was speechless. When I got the call from [Patriots Vice President of Media Relations] Stacey [James] letting me know I was one of the finalists, that was the last thing I expected. I was pretty much in shock. I thought Stacey wanted to go take his kids to Launch [trampoline park owned by Ty Law]. I had no idea what he was calling for. I was pleasantly surprised.
Q: What would it mean to you to be the inductee?
TL: It would mean a lot. 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. 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.
TL: It started long before he got to the NFL. I knew Darrelle when he was in Pop Warner. I was close with his uncle, Sean and his family overall. 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.
Q: Do you think Patriots fans will forgive you for playing for the Jets?
TL: I think Patriots fans prove that by voting for me by me being on the list of finalists and the reception that they give me each and every day in the New England area by supporting my business. They’re forgiving and never bringing that negative energy out on me. It’s awesome. They remember the good times at the Patriots and I appreciate that.
Q: Is there one moment or game that you’re most proud of from your tenure here? What defines your career as a Patriot?
TL: I don’t think I can put it into a game or one particular moment. It was defined by the journey from the start to finish. Coming back full circle now and being considered as one of the Patriot all-time greats is very humbling to me. I left and played on some different teams but my heart was always with the Patriots regardless of where I was at. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m never one to be too lost on words but I am right now. It’s still fresh and it’s new and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I’m getting a lot of calls and texts [with] congratulations. Everyone is pulling for me. I feel like I’ve already been accepted just by being nominated and being one of the finalists, you know what I mean? It’s a great feeling but it’s all about the journey to this point right now. I’ve had some great moments and some great games individually and from a team perspective but the journey along the way. I won’t exclude the tough training camps, the laughs and the camaraderie we had in the locker room. They were also some of my greatest moments. I can’t just put it on the field. The journey, at the end of the day, was most important to me. The moments, I relive the moments, not the moment. I can think back about a play, I can think back about an interception that was awesome but I wouldn’t trade the journey for any of the plays, the big plays that I may have made in any particular game.
Q: What are the Patriots getting in an upgrade with Darrelle Revis over Aqib Talib?
Q: Can you share some thoughts on your fellow finalists?
TL: 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. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of great cornerbacks coming out of that school. 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. Everything that he told me about myself, he was right. No matter how I tried to fight it. I’m very grateful to him because he gave me the opportunity by signing off on those guys drafting me. I know ultimately at the end of the day it was Mr. [Robert] and that right there, 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. Raymond Clayborn, you look at this guy and it’s like, ‘Why hasn’t he been there, in the Hall of Fame?’ His numbers speak for themselves. You see his highlights and you’re like, ‘If he didn’t get in, how the Hell am I going to get in?’ That’s what you think about as a player when you see some of the greats not enshrined. Not trying to take anything away from yourself, but 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. I think being tied with him for the all-time interception record, he was a guy, even though I didn’t know personally, that I was chasing, I wanted to beat him. It wasn’t about Mike Haynes, even though Mike Haynes was one of the greatest to ever play the game. I don’t know either one of those guys personally, except for the years after I started playing to get to meet them. But he was the guy that I was chasing. I was young when they were playing and I didn’t get to see a lot of them until afterwards on film. But when you look down on paper, you see Raymond Clayborn, you see how many years he spent with the Patriots, obviously this guy was doing something right that he got this many interceptions, this many touchdowns, this many yards. Hey, that’s who I’m chasing. We heard about how he might have been overshadowed by Mike Haynes but I think it’s long overdue. 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.
Q: When you look back at your time in New England, is there anything you look back on and say you wish you’d done it differently? And if you are inducted, what are the odds that we’ll see another Robert Kraft dance up on the stage with you?
TL: 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. 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. If I was fortunate enough to be the finalist and get in and have that moment that day, I think it would be pretty rude if I didn’t get Mr. Kraft up on the stage to get one more dance with me. It would be almost disrespectful to our relationship, one that we’ve grown to have over the years. It’s one of those things that me and Robert we know, we know when it’s time to dance and do our thing. You can absolutely expect, at least on my part, to get him up there. I might have to get his shoe size so I can bring him some dancing shoes but I’m going to do my part if I get in.
Q: Obviously the Patriots added
TL: I don’t think it’s a size thing. I understand the receivers, they’re bigger, they’re taller, they’re faster. I like football players and I think when you have football players that can play the position, they can cover. There’s one thing about having cover guys. There’s another thing about having football players. The Patriots right now have two football players at the cornerback position that you do so many different things with. You can match them up. If you want to match up size, you have the ability to do that. When you’re talking about a guy like Darrelle Revis, he’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the smallest, but you can put him on anybody and he’ll find a way to take them out. Whether they’re 6-foot-5 or 5-foot-10, he can play football and do everything. Brandon Browner is a bigger guy, you can put him in the inside as well and play him like a small linebacker so that is an asset, it’s something that’s going to be fun to watch Coach [Bill] Belichick. I know he’s not just going to keep him out there on the corner. He’s going to have some fun with this guy. Because he’s a football player he can do that: he can play outside, he can play inside, he do all the things maybe a smaller guy can’t do. I think it’s a great intangible to have, I think it’s a great asset to have, physically to be gifted to be able to run with that type of size. At the end of the day, it’s all about playing football and they have two football players. There’s no sense if you’re big and fast and can’t play football, that’s not impressive to me. I’d rather have a slow guy, maybe not that fast and might not hit the hardest but he does everything well because he’s a football player. Whatever you tell him to do, he can be successful at it. They have two guys that fit the bill and I see them making a strong push to bring another championship back to New England because of those two guys.