Thursday, September 13, 2012 Updated: September 14, 3:56 AM ET
Troy Brown, true Patriot Hall of Famer
By Mike Reiss ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Troy Brown visited the Patriots Hall of Fame on Thursday, where he'll officially have a permanent residence after Saturday's highly anticipated induction ceremonies (Saturday, 5 p.m., admission free). In doing so, he reflected on his underdog story and place in franchise history.
Bill Belichick says of Troy Brown, "You can never really replace a guy like that. He's just special."
But before we get to Brown's personal recollections, which bring to life some of the greatest championship moments in franchise history, let's first visit with those who coached him and played alongside him.
Troy Brown a Hall of Famer? To head coach Bill Belichick, this is a no-brainer.
"I can't think of anybody more deserving to go in than him," Belichick said. "Special player. Came in very unheralded, worked his way up on the roster offensively, returned kicks, ended up playing for us defensively. [He won] championships, played at a very high level and played his best football in big games.
"Troy was a great leader," Belichick continued. "Worked as hard as anybody, unselfishly, always did what we asked him to do from a team standpoint whether it was block, catch passes, return kicks, cover kicks, cover receivers. He truly was a good player in all three phases of the game, an outstanding player offensively and in the kicking game.
"Always did it for the good of the team and he was a big reason why we won a lot of games. You can never really replace a guy like that. He's just special."
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who fired passes to Brown over the first part of his career (1993-2000), is planning to attend Saturday's ceremony along with other franchise greats Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law and Kevin Faulk, among others. Meanwhile, Tom Brady, the quarterback who dialed up Brown often over the back half of his playing days (2001-07), would be there if the schedule allowed.
"Troy is a great friend of mine, just a special player and friend and teammate," Brady said. "We've been in the huddle for a lot of years. It's really a great honor for him and he certainly deserves it. When you think of a Patriots player and attitude, that's the first guy that comes to mind."
Brady joked that Brown sometimes tells him that he has three or four more plays in him. Count defensive captain Vince Wilfork among those who smile at that thought, because playing with Brown, and sharing the same locker room, was special to him.
"Leadership," Wilfork answered, when asked what comes to mind when he thinks of Brown's career. "You're talking about a leader on and off the field. He'd give you the shirt off his back. He's a helluva person, not just a football player. He's a great, great man and a helluva father.
"You hear people talk all the time about what it means to be a Patriot. He's a walking Patriot. Every example of what this organization stands for, that's Troy Brown."
Coaches loved him. Teammates loved him. And fans did, too.
For Brown, Saturday promises to be filled with more smiles than tears. It's just his way.
Who can forget Troy Brown's 51-yard punt return TD against the Steelers in the 2001 AFC title game?
"I'm usually a pretty happy person. I don't think I cry very easily," he said. "It just brings back a lot of memories and hopefully I'll see a lot of familiar faces that I haven't seen in a while. I think this is a great way to cap off [my career]. You can't get any greater honor than this when you're a Patriot."
Brown's story is well-documented, how he was cut his rookie season and had to scrap to keep his spot once re-signed. In August of this year, he had a chance to relive that chapter of his career when he saw former Patriots coach Bill Parcells at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Curtis Martin. The two talked for a "long, long time" and Parcells told Brown how proud he was of what he accomplished. Brown told Parcells how he was driven to prove him wrong and that being cut made him a better player and person.
"He gave me another opportunity," Brown recalled, "and it was pretty good since then."
Pretty good? Some of the plays that Brown turned in were simply great, like his punt return against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game following the 2001 season. It ranks as one of his all-time favorites.
Plays like that were the norm for Brown, whose climb from the lower rung of the roster to key leader and clutch performer endeared him to many.
"I think if you look where it started from, and how it started, a lot of people would be surprised that I made it 15 years with this team and this organization," he said. "I just enjoyed working hard, grinding things out, sweating, going through the pain of weeks of hard labor. That's the way I was brought up."
The hard work has him in position to run one more route for the Patriots -- straight into the team's Hall of Fame.
As Belichick, Brady and Wilfork said, it's a special honor for a special player and person.