Where Did The Good Guys Go? Tedy Bruschi Was Last of a Dwindling Breed

Tim JacksonCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 7: Tedy Bruschi #54 of the New England Patriots laughs from the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens during the preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 7, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Terrell Owens. Pacman Jones. Michael Vick. Donte Stallworth. Chad Ochocinco. What do all these players have in common?

Well, there are actually two things. For one, they are some of the NFL’s biggest and most recognizable names. Secondly, all of these players carry significant baggage.

For those who are unaware, “baggage” denotes that a player brings negative characteristics to a clubhouse. Owens is notorious for tearing apart locker rooms. Ochocinco is the poster child for prima donnas. Jones, Vick, and Stallworth have all been convicted of heinous crimes and have seen the inside of a jail cell at least once.

The NFL is an elite group. Some of the finest athletes in the world are paid an average salary of $1.25 million a year to play a game. Unfortunately, a number of these players abuse their fortunes.

In the 2008 calendar year, 58 NFL players were arrested for crimes ranging from DUI to manslaughter. This number does not include the other players commissioner Roger Goodell suspended for violations not resulting in arrests and the players such as Owens who simply carry a “holier than thou” attitude.

Even though it may not be reality, it feels like the NFL has more criminals and malcontents across its 32 rosters than not.

It’s a sad day when we as fans need to search for the good guys in the game and struggle to find role models amongst over 1,500 players. As some of the most publicized people in the world, one would hope these individuals would hold themselves to a higher standard.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. It seems like there are fewer and fewer role models to look up to in today’s NFL. On Aug. 31, the NFL lost one of its true good guys to retirement. He wasn’t the most popular player or the most widely known. He won’t get into the Hall of Fame, and he only made one Pro Bowl.

However, if one takes into account this man’s body of work, his perseverance, and his character, it is clear that he was one of the finer players to step on an NFL field in recent memory.

Now ex-New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi called it quits following 13 seasons in the NFL. He experienced many highs throughout his career, but he also persevered through struggles and a near death experience.

Bruschi came into the league in 1996. At the University of Arizona, he set the NCAA record for sacks as a defensive end. Despite his impressive resume, Patriots head coach Bill Parcells began a project in training camp that season to convert Bruschi into a linebacker.

Numerous NFL players would throw a hissy fit at the thought of enduring the growing pains that come with changing positions. However, Bruschi elected not to gripe about his situation and instead chose to work hard. As a result of his efforts, he was able to put together a 13-year career that has placed him amongst the greatest Patriots linebackers in the franchise’s history.

Bruschi was a member of three Super Bowl Champion squads. He was widely considered to be the heart and soul of the Patriots defense in all three victories. While the Patriots are seen these days as an offensive juggernaut, it was their defense that netted them their three titles in 2001, 2003, and 2004. He wasn’t flashy; he just did his job and helped his teammates even when the situation looked dire.

For all his accomplishments on the turf, his greatest accomplishment may have come following Super Bowl XXXIX, when the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. It was this challenge that proved his true toughness and earned him the most respect from his teammates and the fans.

Just a few short days following his first Pro Bowl appearance, Bruschi collapsed in his home. He was rushed to Mass. General Hospital in Boston and was diagnosed as having had a stroke.

For many people, a stroke can mean the end of the line. A stroke can knock out even the toughest people. Some people give up, refuse to fight it, believe that all is lost, that they will never return to normal. Nobody would have blamed Bruschi for retiring from football following his devastating diagnosis.

But Bruschi is different. Not only did he bounce back, but he was back on the football field the next season. And it wasn’t in a reserve role where he rode the bench most of the year, he started most of the games after he returned and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

He did it without much fanfare or press. His journey from a stroke back to the playing field epitomized Bruschi.

Tedy Bruschi always gave it his all. Whether it was fighting a stroke, playing for a Super Bowl, or mentoring young players that would someday take his place, Bruschi put forward a 100% effort every single time.

Teammate and second-year Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said that Bruschi “took me under his wing when I first got here. He told me then one day he would pass the torch on to me and the rest of the team.”

Former teammate and now Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel said that “if you know Tedy and know where he came from and know how he was raised, and know what he played in college, and once he had his transformation into the NFL, you realized he was giving you everything he had.”

Perhaps the best description of Bruschi came from his head coach, Bill Belichick. Belichick has coached countless players, has established himself as one of the greatest coaches to ever patrol an NFL sideline, and almost never displays emotion or doles out glowing praise to his players.

However, at Bruschi’s retirement press conference, Belichick became emotional and doled out the glowing praise that we almost never see: “I guess, if you ask me to sum up how I feel about Tedy Bruschi in five seconds ... he’s the perfect player …The torch has been passed, and we’ll try to carry it on. It’s a high standard … I’m proud of everything he did.”

In an era where there are fewer and fewer role models for the average fan to look up to, Bruschi was among the best. He never complained, always worked hard, and was willing to do his job.

He is someone that we can all look up to. We will all miss him, as the NFL lost one of its greatest on-field ambassadors last month.

Bruschi did many great things throughout his career, and he will continue to do many great things the rest of his life.

You can use any number of positive adjectives to describe him, but Bruschi probably summed it all up the best at his press conference:

“When you come in this facility there’s a sign … there’s one part of it that’s important … It says, ‘Do your job.’ Do your job. Well, I did my job for thirteen years and now my job is done. My job’s done … I’m looking forward to living the rest of my life, I really am. Thanks.”