'There's no other way this game can turn out'

NEW ORLEANS -- On Saturday afternoon, less than 30 hours before Super Bowl XXXVI kicked off, Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi sat with his brothers, Billy and Marc, and talked about serendipity. He didn't exactly use that
word, but that's what he meant.

"It's a little weird," Joe said. "Red, white and blue team. The whole nine-eleven thing ... I guess it's fate."

In a country where patriotism is enjoying a new vogue, the New England Patriots reached the Super Bowl. For the Andruzzi family of Staten Island, it was even more cosmic. Joe's three brothers, you see, are New York City firefighters. Jimmy Andruzzi was in Tower One of the World Trade Center when Tower Two collapsed. Jimmy, who had climbed as high as the 23rd floor, escaped. Tragically, hundreds of his brothers in the fraternity of firefighters did not.

"Red, white and blue," Billy said. "It's a Cinderella story. There's no other way this game can turn out."

"No way," Marc added.

As it turned out, they were right. The Patriots stunned the St. Louis Rams 20-17 on Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time ran out. Billy, Marc and Jimmy watched from NFL Conmmissioner Paul Tagliabue's box as Joe became a world champion.

Afterward, Billy clamped a bear hug on a familiar reporter and Marc almost crushed him with an adrenaline-fueled handshake.

"I told you," Marc said, grinning. "No other way for it to turn out."

Joe Andruzzi, surrounded by a thicket of pads and microphones in the Patriots' locker room, stuck out a big right hand himself.

"That," he said, "was pretty sweet, wasn't it?"

Andruzzi is a heartwarming, longshot story in and of himself. He played at Southern Connecticut, a Division II school, and survived rejection from the NFL draft and the Green Bay Packers.

"It's unbelievable," Joe said. "We've been going on since the tragedy and stuff. We just go out there as the red, white and blue team. Patriots, patriotic Super Bowl -- it's all destiny.

"Having the support of my three brothers here, my family, my wife, may parents, my uncles and aunts ... it is just a great feeling to have their support, especially my brothers. They've been through a lot. This was for

"This is what they wanted, and they deserve it as much as any one of us."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com