Patriots fans have selected Willie McGinest as this year’s inductee into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.
The team announced Tuesday that McGinest, a first-time finalist, was selected over two-time finalists Raymond Clayborn and Leon Gray.
“I’m honored to be the 24th inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame, and I want to thank the entire Kraft family, the writers, all my teammates and coaches along the way, and of course, the fans for making all of this possible,” said McGinest.
The first draft pick of Robert Kraft’s ownership — though, as he recalled Tuesday, he believed he was going to become a Cowboy because he’d had so little pre-draft contact with then-Patriots coach Bill Parcells — McGinest was the fourth overall selection in 1994 after a stellar career at Southern California.
He would play a dozen seasons for New England before spending the final three years of his career in Cleveland, where he played for his former defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel.
“We came into the NFL together,” Kraft said in a statement. “And we will always share a special bond. During his 12-year Patriots career, Willie played a critical role in transforming us from a cellar dweller into a championship-caliber team. He was the leader of a defensive unit that propelled the Patriots to our first Super Bowl championship in 2001.”
McGinest and Houston Antwine, who was selected for induction earlier this year by the Hall’s Senior Committee, will be honored in a ceremony outside the Hall at Patriot Place this summer.
Fletcher is back
Another familiar name is rejoining the Patriots’ linebacker corps, as the team has signed Dane Fletcher. A league source said Fletcher received a one-year deal.
Fletcher, 28, spent last season with the Buccaneers, playing in all 16 games with four starts. He was credited with 39 total tackles (27 solo) and a half-sack.
Signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie out of Montana State in 2010, Fletcher made the 53-man roster that year and played the final 13 games, making the transition from small-school defensive end to linebacker.
He played 10 games in 2011, then missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL.
Fletcher played 15 games with the Patriots in 2013, then signed a one-year, $1.2 million free agent deal with Tampa Bay for 2014.
The Patriots also signed rookie receiver Zach D’Orazio, who was undrafted out of Akron. D’Orazio is listed at 6 feet 2 inches, 217 pounds. A former high school quarterback, he had 62 catches for 658 yards and a touchdown last fall. The two additions bring the roster to the offseason limit of 90 players . . . The Patriots held their first on-field OTA practice Tuesday, with two more scheduled for this week, Thursday and Friday. Media will have access to Friday’s session.
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