Former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy spent nearly two decades trying to erase the memories of his seven seasons in New England from his mind. That’s how much it stung when coach Bill Belichick cut the four-time Pro Bowler 19 years ago.
“Every time somebody gets released from the Patriots they always bring up my story,” Milloy said. “But nobody had an exit like mine, getting released on the Monday before the first game. It just really, really hurt.”
Milloy, who began his career in New England and was an integral part of the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory, returned to Boston on Wednesday to accept the football legacy award at The Sports Museum’s 21st “The Tradition” awards program at TD Garden.
“The way it went down, the way I left, I didn’t have a proper chance to say goodbye to the fans I played so hard for,” Milloy said. “I appreciate The Sports Museum for allowing me to come back. There was a lot of me really trying to erase my seven years here for so long. I’m getting old now. I’ve got three kids doing well now. But the way I left, I couldn’t wait to get back to see you guys. It’s as simple as that.”
Milloy said one thing he’ll always cherish about his time in Boston is the friends he made.
“My best friends are not football players, they’re citizens of Massachusetts and they all came to support me,” Milloy said. “They were in my living room the day after I got released. They felt the hurt. And they all rallied today to see me get this award because they’ve felt my journey. I’m just glad to come back here on a happier note and close this chapter.”
Milloy was one of seven athletes honored at Wednesday night’s event. Here are highlights from each honoree’s time on stage.
Johnny Damon still has long hair
When former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon walked onto the stage, his hair was in a bun. It didn’t stay that way for long.
“Well, first things first, I’ve got to drop this,” Damon said, letting his hair down to its full length. “It’s back, y’all.”
The free-spirited center fielder enjoyed his best seasons in Boston and made sure the fans knew he appreciated them.
“Wow, it is great to be cheered in Boston after all these years. I love y’all,” said Damon.
Red Auerbach ‘knew exactly what he was doing’
Before M.L. Carr became the Celtics’ towel-swinging hype man, he was a journeyman coach Red Auerbach stashed overseas for a year.
For Carr, who grew up a Celtics fan in North Carolina, it wasn’t how he envisioned starting off with the team.
“You know, everyone talks about Red Auerbach being a genius,” Carr said. “When I came up to Boston, he said ‘we don’t have a place on the team for you right now. We want to hide you for a year.’ Ten days later I was in Israel. I was saying, ‘some genius.’ But he knew exactly what he was doing, so when I came back, I got a chance to play where I wanted to be.”
Chantè Bonds is leading a New England football dynasty
The Boston Renegades of the Women’s Football Alliance have won four consecutive national championships.
The MVP of the 2022 WFA championship game was Brockton native Chantè Bonds. She won the MVP in 2018 and defensive player of the year in 2017.
“I didn’t have the representation,” Bonds said. “I didn’t see other women or other girls playing football. Now being in this room and being given different opportunities to tell my story and to showcase my skills and what the rest of my teammates can do, I think that’s huge for young girls because they have an opportunity to see something I never got to see”
Jillian Dempsey named the Bruins’ mascot
Former Harvard women’s hockey standout and current Boston Pride captain Jillian Dempsey is a force to be reckoned with on the ice.
But she has another claim to fame. She’s the one who gave Blades, the Boston Bruins’ mascot, his name.
“I think it was just a contest that every kid in Boston probably entered,” Dempsey said. “Somehow my selection won. The Bruins had us for a little unveiling, which was very enjoyable. Now when I see Blades at events there’s that acknowledgment.”
The 2011 Bruins helped Mark Recchi feel young again
The final game of Mark Recchi’s lengthy NHL career was Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, which the Bruins won in his home province of British Columbia.
Recchi, who was 43 at the time, was the oldest active player in the NHL. He was surrounded by young talents Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. But that didn’t stop him from having fun in his final season.
“It kept me young for sure,” Recchi said. “It was awesome. I taught them how to drink red wine, and it kept me young for sure.”
Bill Rodgers says there’s just something special about Boston
Bill Rodgers won the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon City four times apiece.
He loved competing here, and he thinks Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s top marathon runner, will too when he comes to compete in April.
“I think he’s going to love Boston’s spirit,” Rodgers said.