edy Bruschi took his
wedding ring out of his travel bag, kissed it, slipped it on the proper finger
and walked into the adoring light.
About 100 New England Patriots fans, some
wearing No. 54 Bruschi jerseys, hailed Bruschi as he left the locker room
following a 23-12 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday.
It has become a routine. A former UA
All-America defensive end, Bruschi improved to 5-0 at Sun Devil Stadium, even if
this one seemed a bit surreal.
"It was sort of eerie out there walking out
there," he said. "I think I should be wearing No. 68 (his UA number), wearing an
'A' on my helmet."
Still, it was another in a series of A-list
days. After winning his second Super Bowl in three years Feb. 1, Bruschi did not
exactly sit around polishing his ring.
In the interim, Bruschi has:
● Visited the White House;
● Attended opening day at Fenway Park;
● Leveled the back yard in his Las Vegas home
to create more play room for his two sons, with a third on the way;
● And, oh yes, signed a four-year, $8.1
million contract that included a $3.5 million signing bonus.
Nine years after tying an NCAA record for
sacks, Bruschi has a firm grasp on his future, too.
"The Pats are my team, the place I want to
stay," said Bruschi, 31.
"I've been with them through ups and downs,
and I don't see why I shouldn't finish with them."
Nor they with him.
"He's got a lot of energy. He's a real upbeat
guy. He's a very emotional guy, which is great for our team," coach Bill
Belichick said after the Patriots limited the Cardinals to 167 yards offense.
"He's smart. He's made the transition from
being a down lineman in college to not only being a linebacker, but being a
coverage linebacker, not just a rush linebacker. He's a great team player."
Another connection to the past was made at
halftime, when former ASU and Cardinals safety Pat Tillman was honored.
Tillman was killed in Afghanistan last spring
while serving as an Army Ranger. All NFL teams wore Tillman's No. 40 on their
Bruschi and Tillman never met but they had a
lot in common. Bruschi was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 1995;
Tillman won that award in 1998.
"I was proud to wear the '40' on my helmet
today. He's an American hero in my mind, for what he did and the sacrifices he
made," Bruschi said.
About 50 family members and friends watched
Bruschi play, including former UA teammates Jim Hoffman and Chris Lopez.
"It's nice to have a homecoming when I come
back here," Bruschi said.
Bruschi draws a crowd in the Northeast, too.
There are two Internet fan sites devoted to Bruschi, a fan favorite who has
adopted the "Full Tilt, Full Time" motto of the fans in Section 116 at Gillette
A New England football signed by Bruschi was
going for $106.95 Sunday on the Internet. His autographed throwback No. 54 red
jersey is sold out, although a few in the crowd had them on Sunday.
"My family is great. My career has gone OK to
this point," Bruschi said with typical modesty.
"I'm just trying to keep it going. Today was
(New England linebacker) Roman Phifer's 200th career NFL game. I look to him in
terms of longevity.
"Hopefully I can play as well and as long as