It’s been 25 years since cornerback Ty Law last wore the maize and blue winged helmet. Nearly a quarter century after playing his final snap for the Wolverines in the 1994 Holiday Bowl, the NFL legend will be given the highest honor in football: enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Law had a decorated career in Ann Arbor from 1992-1994. The Aliquippa, Penn. native was a three-time letterwinner under Gary Moeller. His sophomore year, he added a unanimous Big Ten All-Conference selection. By his junior year, Law was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection as well as a first team Walter Camp All-American. Law declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season due to the financial hardship of his grandfather filing for bankruptcy. This led to a bit of a rift with Law’s defensive coordinator and then-new Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. Law finished his Wolverine career with with 154 tackles (120 solo, 34 assist), 6 interceptions, and 17 passes defended
In the NFL, Law silenced any and all doubts about his ability to play at the professional level. In 10 years with the New England Patriots, Law played in three Super Bowls, winning two of them with fellow Michigan man Tom Brady quarterbacking the team. (Law missed the final nine games of the regular season and all three of the Patriots playoff games in 2004 with a foot injury, but he did earn his third Super Bowl ring.) While in Foxboro, Law was named to four Pro Bowls (1998, 2001-2003.) Earned First-team All-Pro honors twice (1998, 2003) and led the NFL in interceptions in 1998 with nine.
After the foot injury and the emergence of younger cornerbacks ended Law’s decade-long watch as a Patriot, he signed with the rival New York Jets. Law recorded a new career-high 10 interceptions and earned Pro Bowl honors during his one season in green and white. From 2006 to 2009, he had brief stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, spent part of 2008 with the Jets, and played in seven games with the Denver Broncos in 2009 before hanging up his cleats.
Ten years after his retirement, it will all come full circle for the multiple time Super Bowl champion and former All-American in Canton Saturday. As he puts on his gold jacket alongside fellow stars from the same era such as Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez, Kevin Mawae and Ed Reed, Law will know all of his hard work, and chip on the shoulder mentality paid dividends.
In an interview with ESPN from 2003, Law touched on why he believed his name didn’t always appear in the discussions of best cornerbacks in the NFL.
I think I’ve been overlooked for a long time because I’m not as flamboyant as some. Maybe because when I came out of the University of Michigan I didn’t have the projections of some of the other guys being top-5, top-10 picks. I think I’ve paid my dues. It took me nine interceptions and 37 pass breakups in one year to get my due. And that wasn’t even my best season.
But I still think I got my just due. People around the league recognized what I brought to the table when I signed the biggest contract ever signed (by a cornerback). People can say what they want. But the money speaks louder than that.
Law will become the seventh former Michigan Football player to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the first since offensive lineman Tom Mack (1964-66) was inducted in 1999. Law’s enshrinement could begin a run of Wolverines to make their way to Canton. Guard Steve Hutchinson (1997-2000) has been a finalist the past two seasons but is yet to make the final cut. DB Charles Woodson (1995-97) will become eligible for induction in 2021 and is presumed to be a first ballot lock after his legendary career. Current Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whenever he chooses to retire, is also a lock to enter Canton in his first year of eligibility.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony airs live Saturday night from Canton Ohio at 7 ET on ESPN.