Bend's Drew Bledsoe honored

Former football quarterback chosen by fans to Patriots Hall of Fame

By Bill Bigelow / The Bulletin

Drew Bledsoe on Monday became the newest member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. And the Bend resident was thrilled to get the news.

In a vote of Patriots fans, the former Pro Bowl quarterback became the 17th player and 18th member to be selected to the National Football League team's hall of fame. According to the team's website, Bledsoe became the first player to be selected to the Patriots Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Bledsoe was chosen ahead of two other finalists: defensive lineman Houston Antwine and Bledsoe's former coach, Bill Parcells.

“It's pretty exciting,” Bledsoe said by phone Monday afternoon, a few hours after learning of his selection to the Patriots Hall of Fame. “It's really a nice honor — especially with Bill Parcells on the ticket with me.”

Parcells coached Bledsoe for four seasons in New England and later for two seasons in Dallas.

Bledsoe said he got word of his election Monday directly from Robert Kraft, longtime chairman and CEO of the Patriots.

“I found out this morning,” Bledsoe said. “I got a call from Bob Kraft to let me know. We've been really close over the years.”

Kraft had kind words for the quarterback who was the face of the Patriots' franchise for most of the 1990s.

“Drew Bledsoe played such an integral role in our efforts to rebuild the Patriots brand,” Kraft said Monday in a story on patriots.com., referring to how in 1994 Bledsoe led New England to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. “He gave fans hope for the future and provided many memorable moments during his record-breaking career.”

Bledsoe, 39, played 14 seasons in the NFL, the first nine with New England. He broke numerous Patriots passing records, some of which he still holds. His NFL record for passing attempts in a season (691 with New England in 1994) still stands, as do his single-game league records for passes attempted (70) and passes completed (45) in a 1994 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

A native of Ellensburg, Wash., Bledsoe was an All-America quarterback at Washington State University and was the first selection overall in the 1993 NFL draft. He went on to lead the Patriots to four playoff appearances in his first six seasons, including a trip to Super Bowl XXXVI in 1996.

Bledsoe was badly injured in the third week of the 2001 season, but he returned to fill in for an injured Tom Brady and led New England to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, sending the Patriots to the franchise's third Super Bowl.

Bledsoe played three seasons for the Buffalo Bills and two for the Dallas Cowboys before retiring after the 2006 season. He and his family have lived in Bend since 2004.

Jon Morris, who played center for the Patriots from 1964 to 1974, was selected to the team's hall of fame by the senior selection committee. Bledsoe and Morris are to be inducted in a public ceremony at The Hall at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass., on Sept. 17, the day before the Patriots' scheduled 2011 home opener against the San Diego Chargers.