There are a lot of cool names that donned the #22 for the Patriots through the years. Asante Samuel was possibly the best of the bunch during his time with New England. His four seasons were filled with drama at his cornerback position. In 2004, he was part of the Super Bowl winning starting lineup on defense due to an injury in midseason to perennial All-Pro Ty Law.
Two seasons later, he would make his greatest play against the Colts in the AFC championship game. Samuel finished the 2006 with 10 regular season interceptions, but it was his pick six off Peyton Manning to give the Pats a 21-3 lead that sticks in my memory. Unfortunately, Samuel struggled the rest of the evening as Indy blew past New England to make it to the Super Bowl.
In 2007, Samuel had another strong season for the perfect 2007 Patriots. Indeed, he could’ve sealed immortality as he got both hands on a sideline pass by Eli Manning late in Super Bowl XLII. Sadly, the ball slipped through his grips and so did the perfect season. Samuel moved on to Philadelphia after the season.
Ridley Kicks the Door Down
Running back Stevan Ridley is another product of the Belichick era to wear #22. Ridley’s ascension to starter for the Pats was as quick as his decline. Ridley had an excellent 2012 season that ended when he got destroyed on a hit by the Ravens in the AFC championship game. In 2013, Ridley saw his playing time decrease as he shared the role with LeGarrette Blount. Amazingly, Ridley rushed for 773 yards to Blount’s 772. In 2014, Ridley was lost early in the season to a torn ACL, and never played a snap for New England again.
Ron Burton was the first #22 in Patriots history going way back to 1960-1965. He was one of these kinds of players that possessed a high motor every time he was on the field. Boston used him as a halfback, pass catcher, and kick returner and he did a fine job in all three phases.
Dave Meggett was a guy from the 1990’s who wore #22 for the Patriots that played a similar game to Burton. While Meggett’s best days were spent wearing #30 for the Giants including a key role in the Super Bowl XXV championship, Meggett latched on with his beloved Coach Parcells with the Pats starting in 1995. He made the Pro-Bowl for the Patriots on their 1996 AFC championship team.
Meggett’s life after football has seen one issue after another. He’s currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for several crimes and misdemeanors.
Terry Allen and Chuck Foreman were two other brilliant running backs who each spent one season in New England. Foreman was rarely used in 1980 after an incredible stint with Minnesota. Allen also had some solid seasons as a member of the Vikings. He ran well for the 1999 Patriots finishing the season with nearly 900 yards rushing.
There are a lot of average players in this history of the Patriots that wore #23. Let’s start way back in the Boston days with by far the best of the bunch, DB Ron Hall. He possessed superb ball skills evidenced by his 1964 AFL All-Star season when he grabbed 11 interceptions in just 14 games.
Patrick Chung has to be the second-best Patriot ever to wear #23. He’s another player that Belichick is enthralled with and not just for his playing ability. He’s a leader on and off the field. When he started with New England, he wore #25. He left for Philadelphia for the 2013 season only to come back and be a pivotal piece in the 2014 World Championship defense. Chung struggled in the Super Bowl LII loss to Philly as he attempted to play through head injuries.
Kudos to you if you remember who scored the three touchdowns in the Patriots 2001 AFC championship game victory over Pittsburgh. You may have guessed Troy Brown and David Patten, but if you got Antwan Harris, you know your Patriots history! The Steelers had a field goal blocked, recovered by Brown who lateraled to Harris who took it the rest of the way. Other than that singular play, Harris had an uneventful four seasons as a prime special-teamer. He earned two Super Bowl rings for his efforts.
Special Teamers Galore
Three other core special teamers spent several seasons wearing #23. Horace Ivory was a backup running back from 1977-1981. Like the Patriots themselves, he had an outstanding 1978 campaign as he rushed for 11 touchdowns. However, he couldn’t crack the starting lineup and went into oblivion following the 1980 season.
Rod McSwain was a backup defensive back through most of the 1980s and even played in the Super Bowl on his 24th birthday. He was a dependable tackler, but unspectacular in pass coverage. Thus, he too never got an opportunity to start on defense.
Finally, Terry Ray was a defensive back for New England in the early ’90’s. He played his last ever game in the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. His best season was in 1995 as he recorded over 70 tackles from his strong safety position.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills