Free agency is for all intents and purposes over. The draft has finally come and gone. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the fifth in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season noted for the Pats.
Darrelle Revis is the latest member of the Patriots to don the number 24; here is a look at those who have preceded him to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots.
24 – Cornerback Darrelle Revis
– Revis was selected 14th overall out of Pitt in the 2007 draft by the Jets. In six years there and one with Tampa Bay he has 21 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries, three pick-six’s, has been named to five Pro Bowls and is a three-time All-Pro; in 2009 Revis was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
2013: S Adrian Wilson
– Wilson spent twelve seasons in Arizona, where he was named to was named to five Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro strong safety four times. A third round (64th overall) pick in the 2001 NFL Draft from North Carolina State, Wilson had 27 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles with the Cardinals. The Patriots signed him as a free agent early in free agency in 2013, but the concept of his being a modern-day Rodney Harrison in Foxboro never materialized. Wilson was placed on injured reserve on August 31, 2013, and then released April 4, 2014.
2011-12: CB Kyle Arrington (now wears no. 25)
– After playing his collegiate football at Hofstra, Arrington was signed as an undrafted free agent by Philadelphia in 2008. He spent a week on the Eagles’ practice squad and was released, and then spent the rest of 2008 on Tampa Bay’s practice squad. He was part of the Bucs final roster cuts in 2009, and then re-signed to play week one with Tampa Bay. After the Bucs cut him again the Pats signed him to their practice squad, and promoted to the 53-man roster when Eric Mangini attempted to sign him with Cleveland. He played in just eight games with the Pats in 2009 as a special teams ace, yet still finished second on the team with 17 special teams tackles.
In the four years since then Arrington has not missed a game, and though he was always meant to primarily be a special teams player, has developed into a decent slot corner. In 2011 he led the NFL with seven interceptions, and now has nine picks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns. Arrington has appeared in 72 games for the Patriots with 52 starts, and has recorded 236 tackles.
2008-10: CB Jonathan Wilhite
– The Patriots selected Wilhite out of Auburn in the 4th round of 2008 draft with the 129th overall pick. His rookie season he was primarily a nickel back, but replaced Deltha O’Neal as the starter for the final four games. In ’09 he played in 14 games (inactive for two due to injury – one of a suspicious nature), with eight starts. Things went downhill from there though. In 2010 Wilhite appeared in the first nine games but started only once, and missed the rest of the season with first a hip injury, and then a hamstring injury. In a 2011 preseason game against the Lions Wilhite suffered another injury, and he was released on August 29. He caught on with the Broncos for the 2011 season and then signed with the Bears, who cut him at the end of camp in 2012.
2007: S Mel Mitchell
– The Western Kentucky defensive back was taken by New Orleans in the 5th round of the 2002 draft, 150th overall. He was a special teams standout for the Saints, and signed by the Pats as an unrestricted free agent in April of 2006. He played in ten games in ’07, exclusively on special teams, plus in the playoff game against Jacksonville. He tore his biceps in the Jaguars game and was placed on injured reserve; the Pats did not re-sign him in ’08, ending his NFL career.
2005: S Michael Stone
– In 2001 the St. Louis Rams had plenty of draft picks after trading Trent Green, and they sent their second and fourth round picks to Arizona for Pro Bowl corner Aeneas Williams. The Cardinals selected the University of Memphis defensive back with that second round pick (54th overall); the Rams easily got the better of that deal. Stone never did much with Arizona, and the Patriots picked him up when injuries ravaged their secondary; in 2005 he was the sixth player to start at strong safety opposite Eugen Wilson.
Stone played 13 games with three starts in ’05 with the Patriots, registering 40 tackles. He played with Houston in ’06 and the Giants in ’08, his final season in the NFL. His post-NFL career has been much more productive. Stone utilized the NFL Executive Education program to attend the Wharton School, the Kellogg School of Management, and Stanford School of Business. He was the Founder and CEO of Allied Athlete Group and of Coliseum Enterprises, and is the Founder and President of Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative.
1995-2004: CB Ty Law
– Law was the first of three consecutive Michigan players to wear number 24 for the Patriots. The first round pick (23rd overall) of the 1995 draft played ten years for the Pats, and was recently elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame. With New England he was an All-Pro twice and Pro Bowler four times, and is one of only a handful of players to be part of all three Patriot Super Bowl championship teams. Law holds franchise career records for most interceptions returned for a touchdown (6), interception return yards (583), and is tied with Raymond Clayborn for most interceptions (36). His interception off Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 36 for a 47-yard touchdown is an iconic moment in the history of the Patriots, and played in 141 regular-season games and twelve playoff games with the Pats.
1991-92: RB Jon Vaughn
– Vaughn only started one year at Michigan, but it was enough to get noticed: as a redshirt sophomore he gained 1,364 yards and rushed for nine touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry in 1990. The Patriots selected Vaughn in the 5th round of the 1991 draft with the 119th overall pick. His rookie season Vaughn was the third option at running back behind Leonard Russell and John Stephens, and only got 31 carries; he was primarily a kick returner, averaging 21.1 yards on 34 returns. In ’92 Vaughn led the NFL with an average of 28.2 yards per return, and also gained 451 yards rushing. Unfortunately he lost five fumbles on just 113 carries, and at the end of the 1993 training camp Bill Parcells had seen enough, trading him to Seattle for a draft pick. In two seasons Vaughn rushed for 597 yards and three touchdowns, caught 22 passes for 173 yards, returned 54 kicks for an average of 23.7 yards and two touchdowns – and also had seven fumbles, losing the ball six times. He spent some time with the Seahawks and Chiefs, but didn’t do much with either club; by 1995 his NFL career was over.
1990: RB Jamie Morris
– Morris was part of a legendary football family in Ayer MA that included brother Joe (of the New York Giants). Jamie Morris was a standout at the University of Michigan, with three straight 1,000-yard seasons – and 1,703 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns his senior year; he still holds the school record 6,201 career all-purpose yards. Despite his productivity he was not drafted until the 4th round (109th overall) in the 1988 draft by Washington due to his size (5′ 7″).
In two seasons with the ‘skins he ran for 773 yards and four touchdowns; he also had had 21 kick returns for an average of 19.7 yards. After Washington released him the Pats signed him as a return man. In five games he returned 11 kicks (18.4 yards per) and had two rushes for four yards; he then played one season in the CFL. Morris was fired from his position with the University of Michigan athletic department in 2010 when a scandal involving improper use of vehicles became public after an automobile crash.
1987: RB Bruce Hansen
– Hansen was only third on his BYU team in rushing his senior year, so it was no surprise that he was not drafted following the ’86 season. The Patriots picked him up as a special teams player, but he did see get some carries in two games due to injuries to Tony Collins, Mosi Tatupu and Reggie Dupard, as well as in garbage time in a blowout win over the Jets. Hansen appeared in six games for the Patriots with 16 rushes for 44 yards, and one reception for 7 yards; he also had one kick return for 14 yards and one fumble recovery.
1982-86: RB Robert Weathers
– After rushing for 2,158 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5.3 yards per carry, the Patriots selected the Arizona State product in the 2nd round, 40th overall, in the 1982 draft. Head coach Ron Meyer said Weathers would replace Sam Cunningham at fullback as the team’s leading ball carrier, but after two games that changed, and he bounced in and out of the lineup. In ’83 he started off the season with a 100-yard game, but the next week Meyer made Tony Collins the lead back while Weathers got only one carry. The trend would continue; later season he rushed for 99 yards on 12 rushes, then did not get a single carry the next week, and and only 14 rushes in the final seven games.
In 1984 he was active for four games but had no stats, tearing his ACL on a clipping penalty and landing on injured reserve. In 1985 he never got more than six carries, though he did rush for 52 yards on three carries in the season finale against Cincinnati. In the playoffs Weathers got a bit more work (10 carries versus Pittsburgh), and in the Squish the Fish Game for the AFC Championship he ran for 87 yards on 16 carries. Weathers injured his ankle in a car accident in the preseason in ’86, and played in only three games before being placed on IR; he was released the next year. Since then he has worked as a personal trainer and youth football coach, these days Weathers is the Associate Director for Outreach Training and Development for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports.
1975-77: CB Bob Howard
– Selected in the 2nd round (48th overall) by the Chargers out of San Diego State in 1967, Howard was a solid player for the Chargers eight years. The Patriots added him at the age of 30 in 1975, and he started at left corner for three seasons before finishing his career in Philadelphia. Howard missed just one game in those three years with the Pats, recording ten interceptions and one touchdown. He was very adept at anticipating short passes and breaking up slants, and was part of the mid-70’s turnaround that saw the Patriots go from a 3-win team to a 3-loss club. Over 23 NFL seasons he played in 169 games, and had 37 interceptions. In his post-NFL career Howard operated a real estate development and property management firm; he passed away in 2008 at the age of 63 from cancer.
1973: RB Bob McCall
– McCall rushed for 1,1148 yards and 5.0 yards per carry his senior year at Arizona, leading to his being drafted in the 5th round, 121st overall in the 1971 draft by Cincinnati. McCall joined the Patriots in 73, and appeared in eight games. He totaled 15 yards on ten carries, three receptions for 18 yards, and also returned two kicks. Four fumbles did not endear him to Chuck Fairbanks, and he did not return the following season.
1969-72: RB Bob Gladieux
– Gladieux was an elite running back at Notre Dame (he out-performed O.J. Simpson when the Irish played USC in ’68), rushing for 4.7 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. The Patriots drafted ‘Harpo’ (so named because his hairstyle was similar to that of Harpo Marx) in the 8th round, 188th overall, in the 1969 draft. Billy Sullivan’s Patriots were barely financially stable at that time. The Pats cut him in ’68 so they could avoid paying him a $2,000 bonus if he was on the opening game roster, and then re-signed him the following week. The next year there were similar circumstances, in what has gone down to be one of the most bizarre tales of folklore in Patriots history.
He had again been cut just before week one, and was in the stands to watch the game with a friend. Tailgating consisted of a six-pack of Schlitz and a quart of homemade wine, and then the two went into the stadium to their seats. While his buddy went up to get a couple more beers, there was an announcement over the public address system. ‘Will Bob Gladieux please report to the Patriots’ dressing room.’ It turns out that Sullivan was being tight-fisted with another player, John Charles, whose contract was up for renewal. Keep in mind that there was no such thing as free agency at that time; a team held the rights to a player for as long as they so desired. The Pats had warmed up without Charles, and tried to use that to pressure him into signing a team-friendly contract. Charles refused, so he was cut on the spot – which led to the PA announcement for Gladieux to come to the locker room. He signed a new contract, got dressed, and despite a bit of inebriation, made the tackle on the opening kickoff. Gladieux’s friend stated that ‘he knew he was drinking, but not enough to be hearing things‘ when he returned to his seat, and heard the PA announcer say ‘tackle by Gladieux’.
Gladieux ended up playing 43 games over four years with the Patriots, plus a couple of games with Buffalo. He was primarily a gunner on punt and kick coverage teams, and finished with 239 yards rushing, 252 yards receiving, and a 48-yard completion on a halfback option. After his playing days ended he returned to South Bend, where he operated a travel agency.
1967-68: WR Bobby Leo
– Bobby Leo was a local athletic hero at Everett High School. He is still considered to be one of the greatest high school athletes in Massachusetts history; in 1961 Leo beat out future Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro as New England’s representative to the National All Star Team, and in football led the state in scoring, and was the best player on the state championship team. Despite scholarship offers from big-program schools like Notre Dame and Michigan, Leo chose to attend Harvard. His senior year he rushed for 6.4 yards per carry, 827 yards and 7 touchdowns, and was an honorable mention All-American.
The Patriots selected him in the 7th round of the first common draft in 1967, 180th overall, and after fulfilling a commitment to the Navy he joined the club in December. In his first pro game he returned a punt 50 yards (before slipping on what had been the pitching mound at Fenway Park), caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Babe Parilli, and totaled 192 all-purpose yards. Leo took an extremely hard hit, and was moved from running back to wide receiver. Then after the first regular season game Leo suffered a leg injury in practice that would sideline him for a few weeks. The Patriots wanted to move him to their taxi squad (a precursor to today’s practice squad) while he recovered, and Leo refused, and retired. He ended his pro career with just three games played, with one rush for 7 yards, one reception for 25 yards, one touchdown, seven punt returns for an average of 9.4 yards, and 11 kickoff returns for an average of 21.1 yards.
In 1993 Leo was enshrined to the Harvard University Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 1999 the Boston Globe ranked him as the third best all-time high school football player from Massachusetts. After acquiring a law degree from Boston College he set up a practice on the Cape, working there until 2001. At that point he invented and patented a baseball pitching machine, and formed a company that marketed that machine; he is now 69 years old and retired.
1962-66: CB Dick Felt
– The man with one of the greatest double entendre names in sports history was undrafted out of Brigham Young, where he once ran for four touchdowns – in one quarter. After serving in the Air Force he joined the AFL Titans at the age of 27, and after two years in New York he played for the Patriots for five years. He was an AFL All-Star once each with the Titans and Pats, and had 18 career interceptions. In 52 games with the Pats Felt had twelve picks, and also helped the Patriots reach the 1963 AFL championship game against San Diego.
Felt coached the BYU secondary from 1968-93, and also served as the Cougars’ defensive coordinator for much of that time. He missed half of the 1990 season following heart surgery, but returned to coach for three more seasons. In 1977 Felt was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 1986 he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame; he passed away on November 17, 2012 at the age of 79.
1961: RB Mel West
– West was the first African-American to play football at Missouri (back when the Big 7 expanded to become known as the Big 8), rushing for 1,848 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. He was one of only two Missouri running backs to ever lead the team in rushing three straight seasons, and is the only running back in school history to lead the team in total offense three times. In 1960 West was all-Big Eight, when the Tigers achieved the only number-one ranking in their school history.
In 1961 he was drafted by the Patriots in 11th round, 82nd overall of the AFL draft, and in the 15th round (204th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL draft. West played only four games with the Patriots, with 90 yards on 26 rushes, five receptions for 42 yards, and seven kickoff returns at an average of 27.3 yards per return. He played the rest of the ’61 season with the Titans, and was released by them in week four of the ’62 season after blowing out his knee. West then returned to Missouri, earned his master’s degree in education, and moved to Minneapolis; there he ascended through the ranks from teacher to principal to superintendent. Mel West passed away in 1963 at the age of 64.
1960-61: RB/TE Joe Johnson
– Johnson was a native New Englander, having grown up in New Haven and playing his college ball at Boston College – when Mike Holovak was the Eagles’ head coach. AT BC he led the team in rushing in each of his three seasons, rushing for 1,707 yards – second most in school history at that time. He was drafted by Green Bay in the 11th round, 127 overall, in the 1953 draft. With the Packers he was a backup, with his best seasons coming in 1955-56, when he rushed for 339 yards and had 37 receptions for 329 yards.
At the age of 31 Johnson joined the Patriots, and in two seasons he had 20 receptions for 268 yards and four touchdowns. In his pro career he had 376 yards rushing, 920 yards receiving, and eight touchdown catches. Johnson was named to the Boston College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981.
1960: RB Walt Livingston
– Virtually no one recalls Livingston, but he is an important part of the history of the AFL and the Patriots. A 20th-round pick from Heidelberg University in Ohio by the Colts in 1957, but saw no action in the NFL. He joined the Pats for their inaugural season, and though his career stat line (three games, 10 rushes for 16 yards, one TD, one reception for zero yards, and one kick return for three yards) was nothing special, he still has a place in the record books.
In 1960 the Patriots conducted a survey of their season ticket holders and decided to play their home games on Friday night. That meant the Pats would play one or two days earlier than any other AFL teams, and as a result the very first game in AFL history was played between the Broncos and Patriots on September 9, 1960. On a 2nd-and-11 from their own 38, Livingston was on the receiving end of the first pass in AFL history, from Butch Songin – which fell incomplete. The play was nullified by a Denver offside penalty, so though it technically is not in the record books, it was in actuality the first pass play in AFL history as well as in the history of the Patriots.
The Pats lost that game to the Broncos, but got their first win a week later against the New York Titans. Livingston opened up the scoring with a one-yard run in the first quarter: that represented the first rushing touchdown in Patriots history. The Pats got their first victory ever that day against the team that would later be known as the Jets when their punter muffed a snap in the last minute of play, and Chuck Shonta picked it up and ran in 52 yards for the game-winning score.
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