Willie McGinest had no idea he’d be joining the New England Patriots entering Draft Day in 1994.
The New England Patriots made the best selection of the 1994 NFL Draft at pick No. 4, as long as you’re one of those (correct) people who refuses to select running backs so high. Sorry, Marshall Faulk. Not your fault.
In many ways, the beginning of the end of this franchise’s doldrums came in the wake of Robert Kraft’s purchase of the Pats in 1994, when they were able to pair Drew Bledsoe with the elite defensive presence of Willie McGinest on draft day.
McGinest, a true captain of the defense, revitalized the unit, swarming anywhere and everywhere over the course of the next decade, from which a dynasty was born. The Patriots were lucky they got him, too —McGinest himself really thought he was going to Dallas.
On the Bill Simmons Podcast in 2017, McGinest admitted his draft experience hadn’t exactly been Patriots-centric prior to the team calling his name.
The DE fully anticipated the Cowboys pulling the trigger on a trade with the Rams for the fifth overall pick, and had even invited three Cowboys reps to his draft party.
“The Dallas hat was on the table, they were there, and they were going to trade up and take me (with the) fifth pick,” McGinest said. “So I thought I was going to Dallas, actually. No conversations with (Patriots coach Bill) Parcells. I visited once. We had an interesting conversation when I was there, and that was it.”
Imagine that? The greatest dynasty of the ’90s adding another icon, instead of the next great one ever getting off the ground? Perish the thought.
Instead, Indianapolis grabbed that fifth pick, and selected a knockoff McGinest in the form of linebacker Trev Alberts. Trent Dilfer went sixth, and the vast majority of the rest of the first round fizzled out in unspectacular fashion.
In hundreds of ways, the Patriots came out victorious here.
McGinest’s remarkable New England career lasted through 2005, and he helped define the first iteration of the Pats dynasty, with Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi by his side. And it never would’ve happened without some Bill Parcells foresight and a fortuitous draft night. Thanks, Dallas!