Two central figures in reviving hope with New England Patriots fans in the 1990s are finalists for induction into the team’s Hall of Fame this year, while one of the great defensive linemen from the club’s American Football League years rounds out the ballot.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe (1993-2001), head coach Bill Parcells (1993-1996) and defensive lineman Houston Antwine (1961-71) are the 2011 finalists.
One of them, selected in a month-long fan vote on Patriots.com, will become the 18th member of the Hall of Fame, joining center Jon Morris (1964-74), who was voted in this year by the newly formed Senior Committee.
Bledsoe and Parcells are in their first year of eligibility. Antwine is a finalist for the third year in a row.
Bledsoe was the No. 1 overall draft choice in 1993, a selection that gave the Patriots a franchise quarterback to build around. By his second season in 1994, Bledsoe had set the franchise’s single-season record for passing yards. His 691 pass attempts in 1994 remain an NFL record.
While Bledsoe No. 11 jerseys became fashionable in New England at the time, excitement had already been building because of the hiring of Parcells in 1993, as he brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been reeling. Parcells would become the first coach to be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, which currently consists of 15 players and one contributor (Billy Sullivan).
While both Bledsoe and Parcells were instrumental in the Patriots’ resurgence, they didn’t have storybook endings with the franchise. Bledsoe was ultimately replaced by Tom Brady, and Parcells bolted after leading the team to the Super Bowl in his fourth season.
Antwine is a member of the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team, 35th anniversary team and 1960s all-decade team, and was voted to six all-star games. He totaled 39 sacks over his career and was selected to the all-time AFL All-League team.