There were a lot of cool offensive players through the years to don the #33 for your New England Patriots. Let’s start, though, with our only featured defensive player with that number, Fred Bruney, who played all the way back from 1960-62. He made the All-Star team in both ’61 and ’62 mostly due to his kickoff and punt return prowess. Bruney was around the game for decades, even filling in as a head coach for a week with the 1985 Eagles.
Reggie Rucker is our only #33 that played wide receiver for New England. In his rookie season with the Cowboys, he played in their Super Bowl V loss to the Colts. After being dropped by the Cowboys and the Giants, New England grabbed him late in 1971. He had three pretty good seasons as a Patriots starter before leaving on disgruntled terms with Coach Fairbanks. He had his best seasons with the Browns, including their dramatic 1980 season under Sam Rutigliano. Rucker retired after the 1981 season and became a longtime broadcaster with the Indians’ radio network among other commentating jobs.
Now, let’s talk about four popular running backs from team history, starting with Tony Collins. Collins had a terrific campaign in 1983 running for over 1,000 yards averaging 4.8 per carry and 10 touchdowns. After New England drafted Craig James, Collins lost his RB1 status, but the Pats benefited all around by splitting carries between the two halfbacks and fullback Mosi Tatupu. Collins’s career ended in a disappointing way, as he was suspended for the 1988 due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Sam Gash is another guy I wrote about when I did the history of the Buffalo Bills by jersey number to also appear in this series. Gash played his first six seasons in New England and was a fine contributor to the 1996 AFC Championship. He was a prototype Bill Parcells guy as he dished out a tremendous amount of punishment on his opponents from the fullback position. And I ask you this: Is there anything more gorgeous than seeing a fullback plow over a linebacker or safety!? Gash was the best.
The Best 33 of Pats History
Kevin Faulk was the longest tenured #33 in Patriots history, playing parts of 12 seasons mostly alongside Tom Brady. Faulk was a receiving option out of the backfield. He was incredibly dependable and clutch. His 20 catches in three playoff games for the 2007 Patriots was probably his most productive stat line over his long career, as his stats simply don’t jump off the page. His two-pointer in Super Bowl XXVIII against Carolina was a very important play as well. Faulk was just a Bill Belichick-guy who did his job when called upon. In 2016, he was rightfully put in the Patriots team Hall of Fame.
Chuck Shonta was the first player to wear #34 for the Pats doing so for Boston from 1960-67. Shonta wasn’t a great interceptor, but he played his position tough and was even selected as an all-star in 1966 after picking off only one pass on the season. He was selected as a member of the Patriots 1960’s All-Decade team.
Ron Sellers played briefly with the Pats before having an exciting season in 1972 for Dallas. In 1969 as a rookie with Boston, Sellers made it to the All-Star game. He never was able to recreate that magic with the Pats and was let go after 1971.
Prentice McCray was the next player to wear #34 for a substantial amount of time. He played defensive back with the Pats throughout the mid to late 1970’s. He had a dynamite 1976 campaign with 182 interception yards and two scores.
34s of the 2000’s
Tebucky Jones was a defensive back for the Patriots from 1998-2002. He’s best known for his role with the 2001 World Champions and almost scored on the play that would’ve clinched the ball game well ahead of Adam Vinatieri’s last second field goal. In the Super Bowl, in the fourth quarter with the St. Louis Rams in desperation mode down 17-3, Kurt Warner scrambled to his right. He couldn’t have run slower if he had bowling balls in his sneakers. Warner lost the ball and Jones took it to the house. Unfortunately, Willie McGinest was called for a holding penalty when he molested Marshall Faulk out of the backfield. Jones had one other huge play in his Patriots career when he picked off Kordell Stewart in the 2001 AFC Championship game.
Finally, let’s talk about a guy who had so much potential but always seemed to get injured, Sammy Morris. He was off to superb start with the dynamic 2007 team before he hurt his chest. In 2008, he probably could’ve rushed for 1,000 yards had he not missed action. Morris was able to get into all 16 games for the 2010 Pats, but only on special teams as Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead had over 300 combined carries.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills