It has to be agonizing, in a way, to sit in a hotel room waiting. A knock or a phone call. Which will it be?
There are 15 modern era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That number dwindles to 10 and then the five inductees during final voting.
The Hall of Fame asks the 15 to be available in their hotel rooms from, say, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Super Bowl Eve. So while it’s thrilling to even reach finalist status, the anxiety that must mount with each passing minute while sitting in a hotel room must be borderline overwhelming.
If you are among the five, you receive a knock on the door. You are congratulated and shuffled off to the NFL awards show to be introduced as a Pro Football Hall of Famer. If the phone rings … well … maybe next year.
Former Patriots star cornerback Ty Law was in a hotel room last February in Houston, home to Super Bowl LI. He made the cut from 15 to 10 but when his phone rang, he was not among the final five. He is a finalist again this year so he will again sit in the room waiting.
The process is humbling and Ty Law sounds unpretentious when he talks about it. Law was a defender who believed he could stop anyone. One of the greatest plays he ever made came while covering one of his fellow 2018 Hall finalists – the Rams Isaac Bruce in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The image of Law’s hand in the air as he raced toward the end zone that night perfectly personifies the former Patriots cornerback’s on-field persona. He was a star, and in that moment on that stage, Law was doing what he did best – making a big play in a huge game. He loved the bright lights. Heck, if the Louisiana Superdome had a marquee, Law would have loved the pressure of having his name on there.
“Now Showing: Ty Law and the Patriots battle the Greatest Show on Turf”
He might have stared at that for a minute, admired it and said, “That looks good, now let’s go beat the crap out of those guys.”
He played with the edge that he knew he was going to beat you. And if you beat him, he’d line up on the next play like it never happened and he still knew he was going to beat you. It was that simple for him. He knew how good he was and that confidence spilled out of him without really crossing the line into an annoying arrogance. If he was a basketball player, he’d want the last shot. With the money on the table, he’d slide it all in.
So it was no surprise that it was Law dancing in the end zone with is buddy, Lawyer Milloy, after giving the Patriots a 7-3 lead over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Who else would it be?
To paraphrase Law and the defense’s sentiments back then, “Those Rams receivers can win a 100-yard dash, but can they do it with someone in their faces hitting them all day?”
He answered that question when he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy over his head.
Law matched the other guy’s speed and finesse with physicality, mental toughness, confidence and incredible playmaking skills. He did it to the tune of 59 regular- and postseason interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns. He was a shutdown corner who could eliminate half the field – a rare commodity.
On February 3, exactly 16 years after he helped the Patriots win their first Super Bowl title, he will learn if he will be hanging a gold Pro Football Hall-of-fame jacket beside his sharp, red Patriots Hall-of-Fame blazer.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has seen a few cornerbacks play over his 43 years as an NFL coach. So he knows a thing or two about hall-of-fame talent.
“He certainly deserves it,” Belichick said. “He had a great career. He was not only a good coverage player, he had great hands, could intercept the ball. He was big, physical and could tackle. There wasn’t a weakness to his game. He was very competitive – played the run, played the pass and also played big in big games. So he’s very worthy of that hall-of-fame recognition.”
That says plenty, but doesn’t say it all. Sure, Law possessed all those skills and undeniably played big in big games, but he also did it while begging to cover the other team’s star.
Who’s the best receiver on the other team? Law wanted that guy and he wasn’t afraid to demand it regardless of whether the receiver was on the left, right or in the slot. Most corners play one side of the field. Not Law.
Marvin Harrison – Ty’s got him. Bruce – Put Ty on him. Eric Moulds – Ty will take him. Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Terrell Owens, Steve Smith, Rod Smith, Keyshawn Johnson – Ty wants those guys too.
That’s the way it was every week and if the game plan called for something different, Law would be salty. He once shared a story about how Belichick would push his buttons. It went something like this: “Bill would walk into the meeting room and say, ‘Ty, you’re going to take Reggie [Wayne] and we’re going to double Marvin [Harrison],’ and I’d say, ‘Like hell we are. I got Marvin.’ And he was just saying that to get me going. He knew he was putting me on Harrison.”
He loved those matchups against elite receivers and standout quarterbacks. The list of quarterbacks he intercepted include Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, Boomer Esiason, Steve Young, Steve McNair, Kurt Warner, Drew Bledsoe and a slew of others. And he stole those passes intended for the likes of Reed, Irvin, Keyshawn, T.O., Yancey Thigpen, Bruce, Moulds and more.
Manning is currently the most prolific passer in NFL history with 71,940 passing yards for 539 touchdowns. He also threw 251 career regular-season interceptions and Law picked him off four times, second only to Terrell Buckley’s five. Add Manning’s 25 postseason interceptions and Law leapfrogs Buckley with nine total interceptions against the future hall-of-fame quarterback. Of the 25 picks Manning threw in the playoffs, Law grabbed five of those – three in the 2003 AFC Championship game and two more when he faced Manning as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Law is one of three players to return two Manning interceptions for touchdowns.
If Manning had a hall-of-fame vote, he’d surely have to cast it for Law.
Of the 16 cornerbacks currently in The Pro Football Hall of Fame, Law is 10th in regular season interceptions (53), seventh in return yards (828) and fourth in interceptions returned for touchdowns (7). Only two other hall-of-fame cornerbacks – Herb Adderly and Mel Blount – won as many championships as Law’s three. Also, Law never moved to safety to extend his career and pad his interception total.
So while patience may indeed be a virtue, to deny Law a bust in Canton at this point is just silly. He deserves to be there. He passes every test one could imagine, including the all-important eye test. He has the statistics. He has the championships. He had the impact. Now he needs the gold jacket and the bust to complete the picture.
There is no knocking his credentials so The Hall may as well knock on his door.
TY LAW PATRIOTS INTERCEPTION FACTS
Most frequent team regular season: Bills 6
Most frequent team including postseason: Colts 7
Home: 27 (including 3 in postseason)
Neutral: 1 (Super Bowl XXXVI)
Teams: 18 (including Rams in postseason)
Most frequent QB regular season: Peyton Manning 4
Most frequent QB including postseason: Peyton Manning 7
Vs. QBs current in PFHOF: 5 (Kelly, Aikman, Marino, Young, Warner)
- 1st: 19 (2 postseason)
- 2nd: 21 (2 postseason)
- 1st: 7
- 2nd: 12 (2 postseason)
- 3rd: 8 (1 postseason)
- 4th: 13 (1 postseason)
When leading: 30 (including 3 in postseason)
When trailing: 9 (including 1 in postseason)
When tied: 1
- 1st: 17 (2 in postseason)
- 2nd: 12 (1 in postseason)
- 3rd: 10
- 4th: 1 (postseason)
For TD: 7 (1 in postseason)
Quarterbacks intercepted more than once (8): Troy Aikman (2), Alex Van Pelt (2), Peyton Manning (7 including 3 in postseason), Steve McNair (2), Chris Chandler (2), Jay Fiedler (2), Drew Bledsoe (2), Quincy Carter (2)
Intended receiver covered more than once (5): A. Reed (2), M. Harrison (3 including 2 in postseason), T. Martin (3), K. Dilger (2), E. Moulds (2)