Special Teams Ghost Leaves Lasting Impression in New England

Sean MartinCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, F - FEBRUARY 6:  Linebacker Larry Izzo #53 of the New England Patriots celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Unsung is officially defined as "one not being praised or acclaimed."

Though he has been to three Pro Bowls entering his 14th year in the NFL, Larry Izzo fits the mold perfectly.

Izzo has consistently performed throughout his career but has little acknowledgment to show for it.

A 1996 graduate of Rice University, Izzo left having the fourth most tackles in school history, once being named consensus All-Southwest Conference and once All-American Honorable Mention.

In the NFL draft of his senior year, he went undrafted. The Miami Dolphins signed him in late April.

With Miami, Izzo made one Pro Bowl in 2000 before going to an inter-division rival, the New England Patriots.

Head coach Bill Belichick really loved Izzo’s character and approach to the game, as did his teammates. They crowned him special teams captain. Izzo held the position for his entire tenure with the team.

Twice during his years in Foxboro, Izzo earned himself a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl squad, once in 2002 and again in 2004. He was a part of each of the Patriots’ Super Bowl winning teams.

However, Izzo’s durability goes unnoticed. Izzo started a streak of 103 consecutive games played for with New England in 2002, which still stands today. He is expected to continue that streak by starting for the Jets.

Though he plays a limited amount of snaps each game, he is a big contributor statistically and served as a great motivator as captain of the Patriots’ special teams.

Izzo had made countless big stops on kickoff coverage and on the punting squad, not only for New England but Miami as well. His special teams' total tackles stands at 280, which is currently second all-time behind Buffalo’s Mark Pike, who owns the record with 283.

In the Snow Bowl, or what has come to be known as the “Tuck Game”the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff round against the Oakland RaidersLarry Izzo recorded an assisted tackle and recovered two fumbles on coverage units. One of the fumbles could have cost the Patriots the game. Fortunately for them, they had a guy who plays hard for the entire contest. The Patriots won 16-13.

The 2003 postseason saw Larry Izzo registering three special teams tackles in the Patriots’ 24-14 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship.

In the 2006 postseason, New England took on the Jets in the AFC Wild Card round. Larry Izzo played a huge role with five special teams tackles in a 37-16 victory.

Izzo’s most productive statistical season came in 1999 as a Miami Dolphin. He managed to register 33 special teams tackles. His highest total as a Patriot came in 2003, when he recorded 31 stops.

Izzo’s work ethic and efforts have served him well; he will most definitely have a job in the NFL for as long as he decides to play. He always performs, he is a vocal leader, and his character has never seemed to be a problem. In fact, he has been recognized for his outstanding personality.

Larry Izzo has often been connected with charities and the United States military. He even raised over half a million dollars for United States veterans.

While others were participating in NFL related activities during the 2002 Pro Bowl, Izzo boarded the U.S.S. Carl Vinson at Pearl Harbor. He greeted around 9,000 crew members during his stay, before the ship left for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Warrick Dunn has been recognized as one of the more active NFL athletes in charity outside the NFL. In 2005, during a tour in Afghanistan and Iraq, Larry Izzo and Dunn represented the NFL for “The USO and NFL Salute the Troops Tour," visiting numerous soldiers overseas. Both players took part in opening the USO Pat Tillman Center at Bagram.

Izzo hosted an event in 2006 called “Karaoke with Larry Izzo and the New England Patriots.” Over $200,000 was raised and numerous big name celebrities were presentMark Cuban and Tom Brady, to name a few.

In August of 2008, for all his work off the field and within the community, proud New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft granted Larry Izzo with the Ron Burton Community Service Award.

Larry Izzo will probably be kept from the National Football League Hall of Fame. By his retirement, his stat sheet may read as him owning the most special teams tackles of all time, but that will most likely not be enough. Buffalo’s Pike is the current all-time leader, and he is sitting outside the walls at Canton.

Izzo played an enormous role each and every game of his career with New England, rarely slipping up or contributing any foul play. Izzo is the epitome of a team player and leader.

I believe I have once heard or read that if a team was entirely put together with Larry Izzos, they would without a doubt win the Super Bowl. Though he may not have Tom Brady’s arm or Peyton Manning’s knowledge of a playbook, Adrian Peterson’s speed or Randy Moss’ hands, Larry Izzo has a passion for the game. He has a passion for life. He has a passion good enough for the Hall of Fame.