New England Patriots: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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Lawyer Milloy, New England Patriots
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(1996-02). Lawyer Milloy. 21. player. 47. . SS

  • Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI)
  • 4x Pro Bowl (1998-99, 2001-02)
  • First-Team All-Pro (1999)
  • Second-Team All-Pro (1998)

When it comes to discussing the greatest defensive players in Patriots history, of course you are going to have to talk about the stellar play of strong safety Lawyer Milloy. A two-sport star at the University of Washington, Milloy wisely picked a career in the NFL over professional baseball, as he was a second-round pick by the Patriots in the 1996 NFL Draft.

Milloy quickly became a starter on the Patriots defense as a rookie in 1996, starting in the last 10 games of that Super Bowl campaign. While New England would come up short against the Green Bay Packers that February, Milloy would be there to stay in the New England secondary for several seasons.

His breakout campaign in the New England defensive backfield came in 1998 when he had 79 tackles, 41 assists and six interceptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. That would be the first of four career trips to the Pro Bowl for Milloy. He also made the All-Pro Second Team in that 1998 campaign.

Milloy followed that breakthrough 1998 season with arguably his best season as a professional in 1999. He went back to the Pro Bowl, as he had 91 tackles, 29 assists and four interceptions for 17 years. This would be the only time in Milloy’s NFL career he would be named First-Team All-Pro.

New England frankly went through a bit of a transition in 2000. Switching from former head coach Pete Carroll to new head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t easy. The Patriots went 5-11 in Belichick’s first year leading New England. But by the time that 2001 came around, Milloy and the Patriots were finally ready for greatness.

With Tom Brady taking over at quarterback for an injured Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots shocked the NFL world and not only made it to Super Bowl XXXVI, but won the thing over the favored then St. Louis Rams. Milloy and the Patriots would finally be Super Bowl champions.

That 2001 season saw Milloy make his third career trip to the Pro Bowl. He backed that up with what was his final Pro Bowl campaign in 2002. Interestingly enough, 2002 ended up being Milloy’s last season in New England.

He would play in the NFL through the 2010 season with multi-year stops along the way with the Buffalo Bills, the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks. Milloy hung up the spikes for good after the 2010 campaign at the age of 37.

Had Milloy stayed in New England, his case for Canton enshrinement would be more compelling. Though a great player in his prime, his productivity wasn’t the same in his final eight years in the league with Buffalo, Atlanta or Seattle as it was in the first seven in New England.

Is Milloy a candidate to be a Patriots Hall of Famer? Absolutely, but will likely just reside in the Hall of Very Good in the national landscape. All that really matters is that the Patriots got the most out of Milloy’s talent in the seven years he was part of the organization.