The New England Patriots famously won three championships in a four-year span thanks to a phenomenal head coach, the greatest quarterback of all-time, and one of the best defenses in the history of football. Between Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, and several others, that defense dominated the league for years at a time. However, perhaps the most important member of that group was cornerback Ty Law.
Over the 2018 off-season, the New England Patriots office of Last Word of Pro Football will be chronicling a different Patriots legend. Last week, it was the franchise’s second-best quarterback, Drew Bledsoe. This week, we’ll take a look back on the storied career of three-time Super Bowl champion Ty Law.
Ty Law: New England Patriots of the Past
A Cornerstone Patriot
Law first joined the Patriots after a wildly successful college career at the University of Michigan. Law was voted First-Team All-American twice, while also being unanimously selected to the All-Big Ten Conference team. New England saw enough talent in Law to select him with their first-round pick in the 1995 draft.
Law’s selection immediately paid off. The young cornerback was a key contributor on the 1995 team before winning a starting job outright in 1996. His strong performance was a key factor behind New England making its second Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXXI.
Law’s career would only go uphill from there. Law received his first Pro Bowl invitation and All-Pro honors in 1998, a year in which he led the league with nine interceptions. Law’s great season was the first time a Patriot had ever led the league in interceptions. While the team itself struggled from 1997-2000, Law kept improving. By the time Bill Belichick came over in 2000, Law had established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in football. However, Law’s legacy would only grow with Belichick’s arrival.
The Dynasty Days: A Playoff Hero
Belichick built a dynamic defense around a ferocious front seven and Law’s lockdown abilities. However, when the lights shined brightest, Law took his play to another level. In Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, Law had the unenviable task of slowing down Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf.
Law stepped up to the challenge, and then some. Left on an island against wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Law completely limited his receiver from the game. Law’s biggest moment from that Super Bowl came on his game-altering pick-six.
Warner threw up a pass intended for Holt, but Law undercut the route. With nobody standing between him and the end zone, Law scored the game’s first touchdown. Law kept his form all day, and could have been Super Bowl MVP were it not for quarterback Tom Brady’s game-winning drive.
Two seasons later, Law did it again. After another All-Pro season, Law and the Patriots needed to defeat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Manning was coming off an MVP season and had Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison at the height of his powers. At the time, there was no harder duo to defend, and it was up to Law to slow them down.
Law did that, and then some. Manning threw four interceptions on the day, with three of them going to Law. Manning was kept off balance all game, and Harrison wasn’t able to bail him out thanks to Law. Law spent most of the game covering Harrison, and Harrison finished his night with just three receptions for 19 yards.
Law After the Pats
Unfortunately, Law wasn’t around for New England’s third Super Bowl Championship. While he was on the roster, a foot injury ended his season prematurely. He missed the final nine games of the regular season, along with the entirety of the postseason run.
Following the season, Belichick released Law and his $12.5 million cap hit, and the longtime Patriot made his way over to the New York Jets. Over the next five years, Law switched teams four different times, including two separate stints with the Jets. The star cornerback finished his career in 2009 with the Denver Broncos alongside Belichick disciple Josh McDaniels.
Despite playing for four different franchises, Law will always be remembered as a Patriot first and foremost. When he retired, Law stated that he was “a Patriot for life,” and that certainly rings true today.
Law had a fantastic career, and was arguably the biggest piece of that great early dynasty defense. He played his best in the biggest moments, specifically Super Bowl XXXVI and the 2003 AFC Divisional Round against Manning and the Colts. Even in retirement, Law remains connected to the Patriots and their fanbase. The former cornerback has served as honorary team captain several times over the years and was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2014.