Ty Law’s path to greatness guided by big dreams

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr. As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW YORK — Ty Law was a wide-eyed young­ster with big dreams when he started mak­ing sum­mer vis­its to his Un­cle Tony’s home in Texas.

They fu­eled his pas­sion for foot­ball. And, they guided his jour­ney to greatness.

Tony Dorsett was forg­ing his own path to the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame long be­fore his nephew even put on a uni­form and be­came one of the best cor­ner­backs to play the game. Dorsett’s days in Dal­las as one of the NFL’S great­est run­ning backs fol­lowed an in­cred­i­ble col­lege ca­reer at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh — and it all had Law imag­in­ing some­day be­ing like his fa­mous un­cle.

“I used to just stare at that Heis­man, stare at his Hall of Fame bust,” Law re­called. “And that right there, it meant the world to me be­cause I re­al­ized dreams do come true. He walked the same streets that I did, so why can’t I? Why not me? But, I knew there had to be a lot of sac­ri­fice to get to that point.”

Law, like Dorsett, grew up in Aliquippa, Penn­syl­va­nia, a foot­ball hot­bed that has also pro­duced the likes of Mike Ditka, Dar­relle Re­vis and Sean Gilbert. “Pis­tol” Pete Mar­avich also honed his shoot­ing touch and show­man­ship on the bas­ket­ball courts of the steel town in western Penn­syl­va­nia.

Ask any­one from there and they’ll tell you that tough­ness and per­se­ver­ance are part of their in­ner fab­ric. Law is no ex­cep­tion.

“It hard­ens you to an ex­tent, in a good way, be­cause you see a lot of things, both good and not so good,” Law said. “But, the pride that we have there, and I think my upbringing, the

com­pe­ti­tion has pre­pared me for ev­ery­thing that I

went through in life. My jour­ney stems through what I’ve done and what I’ve seen in Aliquippa. You can­not get any more com­pet­i­tive than that, be­cause we com­peted at ev­ery­thing, ev­ery sin­gle

chance we’d get.”

On Satur­day, Law will be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in Can­ton, Ohio — 25 years after he watched Dorsett slip on his gold jacket, pose with his bronze bust and take his place in foot­ball im­mor­tal­ity.

“Once I got to the NFL, there was no stop­ping me be­cause in the back of my mind I still see that lit­tle kid star­ing at that Heis­man Tro­phy and Hall of Fame bust,” said Law, who’ll be pre­sented by child­hood friend By­ron Wash­ing­ton. “So, that was the goal from Day One, and I just went for it. And I know you had to play a long time. I know you had to play con­sis­tently.

“They don’t just give those things away, no mat­ter how long you played. You had to make an im­pact, and that’s what I tried to do.”

Law was a first-round pick by New Eng­land out of Michi­gan in 1995 and played 15 sea­sons in the NFL, in­clud­ing 10 with the Pa­tri­ots. He also had two one-year stints with the New York Jets and with Kansas City, and one with Den­ver.

He quickly es­tab­lished him­self as one of the

NFL’S true shut­down cor­ner­backs who rou­tinely cov­ered — and reg­u­larly qui­eted — op­po­nents’ best re­ceivers. Law helped Bill Belichick’s Pa­tri­ots win three Su­per Bowls as the heart of a de­fense filled with other stars such as Wil­lie Mcginest, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Br­uschi, Mike Vra­bel, Lawyer Mil­loy and Richard Sey­mour. Law, a mem­ber of the NFL’S All-decade Team for the 2000s, is the only

Hall of Famer among them.

“He never got tired,” said Vra­bel, en­ter­ing his sec­ond sea­son as Ten­nessee’s coach. “That’s the one thing that I al­ways re­mem­bered about Ty. He could be run­ning a conditioni­ng test and talk­ing junk and trash to every­body around him. He was a big cor­ner that wasn’t just a cover-2 cor­ner. He was

... a man-matchup cor­ner, could play man cov­er­age, could play zone cov­er­age, could jam, reroute, could tackle.

“But just his en­ergy and ex­cite­ment for life and play­ing a game, it was al­ways fun hang­ing out with Ty.”

Law was se­lected for five Pro Bowl teams and was a two-time All-pro. He fin­ished with 53 ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions, twice lead­ing the

NFL in that cat­e­gory, had over 800 tack­les, 169 passes de­fensed, five sacks and scored seven times.

He was a game-chang­ing cor­ner­back whose swag­ger and con­fi­dence were in­tim­i­dat­ing. Then, Law would step on the field and take over with his play.

“Ty was tough, he would tackle, he could play against big re­ceivers and he was phys­i­cal against guys,” Belichick said. “You know, the Marvin Har­risons of the world that were maybe a lit­tle quicker, but Ty had great in­stincts and size and play­ing pres­ence, and he matched up well with those type of play­ers, too, as well as (Eric) Moulds, and some of the other big guys he

cov­ered.”

Law re­fused to ac­cept he couldn’t do some­thing, an at­ti­tude born from those some­times-rough days in Aliquippa.

“You can’t just be a good ath­lete be­cause Aliquippa’s got great ath­letes walk­ing around the street ev­ery day,” he said. “What’s go­ing to set you apart? I tried to set my­self apart by do­ing ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary to achieve my goal.”

That meant play­ing cor­ner­back, tail­back, safety, wide re­ceiver and re­turn­ing kicks at Aliquippa High School — any­thing that would make him­self stand out.

Col­lege scouts no­ticed and Law ended up go­ing to Michi­gan, where he played in ev­ery game from the mo­ment he stepped onto cam­pus. He was a starter mid­way through his first sea­son and a dom­i­nant force not too long after.

After his ju­nior sea­son, Law opted to en­ter the NFL draft. It was a gam­ble, he ac­knowl­edged, but one he needed to make. The de­ci­sion also be­came a driv­ing force after the Pa­tri­ots made him the 23rd player picked in 1995.

“The tone was set when I de­cided to leave col­lege early after my ju­nior sea­son,” he said. “It was a be­lief that I had in my­self, and I said, ‘You know what? There ain’t no turn­ing back now.’”

So, he kept mov­ing for­ward — all the way to Can­ton.

“I knew if that was the goal, it wasn’t about just get­ting on the field right now or work­ing my way up into the nickel, into the ro­ta­tion and even­tu­ally be­ing a starter,” Law said. “I said from Day One that my goal by the time I’m done was to be a Hall of Famer. I set that bar that high.

“And ev­ery­thing else, to get to that point, I had to work harder, I had to study harder, I had to com­pete harder.”

TONY GU­TIER­REZ/AP

In this Feb. 3, 2002, file photo, New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots cor­ner­back Ty Law, 24, cel­e­brates his intercepti­on for a touch­down against St. Louis in the sec­ond quar­ter of Su­per Bowl XXXVI, with team­mate Lawyer Mil­loy at the Louisiana Su­per­dome in New Or­leans. Law will be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in Can­ton, Ohio on Aug. 3, 2019.

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