Dillon was a talented back long before his days as a Patriot.
Until he arrived in New England, though, his career was stained by selfishness and off-field incidents, including a drunken driving arrest in March of 1998 followed by another unrelated arrest in August of 2000.
He continued to produce despite his dismay. His delinquent side came out regularly.
He openly expressed his desire to be traded to Dallas, and he even appeared on TV wearing an Oakland Raiders jersey, one of the teams that was interested in attaining his services.
He even threw his teammates under the bus, claiming that his offensive line wasn’t blocking for him.
But he came to New England for a second-round pick when no one else was willing to give up that much on a seemingly divisive and aging running back.
Right from the beginning, he proved everyone wrong.
Being given a chance to start new with Bill Belichick, he was humble in the Patriots’ locker room and truly embraced the “Patriot Way;” hard work, selflessness, and an insatiable hunger to win.
Even though he was only a Patriot for three seasons, he was able to land himself atop the Patriots’ single-season rushing leaders, clocking 1,635 yards in 2004 along with 12 rushing touchdowns, and 13 overall.
That season, he was among the top 10 running backs in nearly every statistical category as he earned his fourth and final Pro Bowl selection.
He’s also in the top 10 in rushing yardage and touchdowns for the Patriots’ all-time.
He was slowed by injuries in 2005, but he continued to contribute heavily, matching his touchdown totals from the previous season.
He bounced back nicely in 2006, when he was spelled by Laurence Maroney. That season, Dillon averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry and amassed a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns.
Even though the Patriots were successful in the seasons leading up to his arrival, he was the missing piece in the Patriots’ offense.
A hard-nosed between-the-tackles running back like Dillon proved the perfect complement for Tom Brady. Dillon’s presence forced defenses to plug the box, allowing Tom Brady to find single coverage all day against opposing defenses.
Dillon makes the list not just for his talent, but for what his presence meant to New England’s offense.