FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Just hours in advance of Tedy Bruschi's induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, the two remaining Patriots who once called Bruschi a teammate shared glowing praise for the longtime linebacker.
"Tedy is a great player who brought so much enthusiasm to our locker room, our team," said quarterback Tom Brady, who also referred to Bruschi as the best Patriot player of all time. "He had a very unique personality, [he was] a very highly motivated person who had a great work ethic, he was a great leader -- especially for the younger players -- he was a great mentor to the younger guys, including myself. He's one of my best friends. It's really an exciting night for him. We've all had this circled on our calendar for a long time since they announced it."
Bruschi and Brady overlapped as teammates for nine seasons, including a stretch of three Super Bowls championships in four years. Brady served as the offensive centerpiece for those teams, while Bruschi was considered by many to be the heart and soul of the defense. He was a leader not only on the field, but an emotional leader in the locker room.
When recalling his fondest memory of Bruschi, Brady referenced Bruschi's postgame huddles inside the locker room following victories, during which he would gather the team together for a chant in unison.
"There's a lot of them," Brady said of his memories of Bruschi. "When he used to bring the team up after a game after a win, and he'd [say], 'How do you feel about a victory?' Those are special. I get chills thinking about it. Those are great times and he fortunately created a lot of memories for all of us. Fans, players and guys that played with him, coaches that were a part of those, he's been a great ambassador for this team and this community.
"And he still does things in the community, what he's done with his foundation and stroke awareness and raising all the money for the Boston Marathon," Brady said, referring to Bruschi's charitable foundation Tedy's Team, which raises funds for stroke research. "He's a great person and a great guy, friend, father, dad -- he's really someone I've always looked up to."
Veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who shared a defensive huddle with Bruschi during the early years of his career, recalled the linebacker's knack for making big plays in timely moments.
"Bruschi wasn't the biggest guy, he wasn't the fastest guy, but all of his plays seem to come at critical moments in the game when we need a play and boom, Tedy [came] up with an interception, boom, Tedy came up with a big hit or something," he said. "Those were the things you remember. A great player."
Wilfork also revisited Bruschi's leadership and selflessness, particularly upon his return from a stroke suffered not long after the 2005 Pro Bowl.
"You don't have to lead all the time by just talking," he said. "Sometimes you have to lead by example, and I think when you talk about leader, there's no better person to turn back and look at than Tedy Bruschi because he gave it his all, every play. When he missed a couple of games from his [stroke] and came back, I mean, he came to win. He came back because he wanted to play football and he felt like he could still get it done. He always gave it his all on the field. That's one thing you never can take from him."