FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was announced as the newest member of the team's Hall of Fame on Tuesday. He was voted in by fans, edging out fellow finalists offensive tackle Leon Gray and head coach Chuck Fairbanks.
"Mr. Kraft called me on the phone last night and let me know, gave me the news," Bruschi said. "He told me he was very proud of me to be inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and I told him how much it meant to me."
Kraft said Tuesday, "I think he got 75 or 80 percent of the vote."
Bruschi will become the 19th former player to be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame, and he'll be one of two new members to join in 2013. Longtime radio play-by-play announcer Gil Santos will also be welcomed into the Hall.
The Patriots selected Bruschi in the third round of the 1996 NFL draft after his decorated career as a defensive lineman at the University of Arizona (he was recently announced as a new member of the College Football Hall of Fame), and he went on to enjoy a sensational tenure as a linebacker in the NFL. Bruschi was part of the franchise's three Super Bowl victories and was twice named to the Pro Bowl. He became a popular figure in New England for his penchant for big plays and unrelenting style on defense. He spent all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Patriots.
"I'm very proud to have only played for one organization my entire career, and I worked very hard to make sure that happened," he said. "I remember getting drafted in my apartment in Tucson, Ariz., and my girlfriend, who is now my wife, I told her that I was going to stay with the New England Patriots my entire career. That was after being drafted and within 10 or 15 minutes. And to be able to look back and say I did that and stay with an organization and build something special is something I'm very proud of. I don't know if it's -- in my mind I was finished, but to have this -- winning championships is better, but this is cool."
Kraft described Bruschi as "someone who's very special," and added, "We were so lucky to have Tedy and I'm happy that he's decided to make his home here."
In 2005, Bruschi was named the co-recipient of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after returning to football just eight months after suffering a stroke. He went on to play three more seasons before retiring in August of 2009. He finished his career with more than 1,000 tackles, 18 forced fumbles, 12 interceptions and five defensive touchdowns scored.
"When he wanted to come back to play, I insisted that he go visit a couple doctors, actually some doctors in New York that were not Patriots fans," Kraft recalled. "I told him certain decisions in life you measure nine times and cut once, and he followed all of that."
Bruschi developed a unique bond with fans throughout his time with the team.
"I always felt like I was one of them," Bruschi said of Patriots fans. "I never felt like I was some type of special person, or I was any different than the people up there cheering on the Patriots. I always felt the New England Patriots fans, they did their work, they got their work done, they liked to come home and spend time with their families and when they had free time, they liked to cheer on their favorite team.
"And that, I feel like that's who I am also," he said. "If I wasn't fortunate enough to play professional football, that's who I would've been. A good family man to my wife and kids and then cheering on my local team, I think that's who I would be, that's why I relate so much to them. I already got an email from Randy Pierce, I still have relationships with some of the fans who I've met throughout the years congratulating me through email, and I've already responded.
"And there are certain relationships you form, and I was never shy about forming relationships with fans because I felt very connected to them," Bruschi said. "Being here my entire career, my kids being raised here, I sort of feel like I'm a transplanted New Englander."
Bruschi, now an NFL analyst for ESPN and ESPNBoston.com, remains active in the local community through his charity Tedy's Team, which supports the American Stroke Association.
The Patriots will induct Bruschi and Santos into the team's hall of fame on Aug. 11, and then honor Bruschi in a halftime ceremony on Sept. 12 against the New York Jets.