A place for Patriots greats

Legends walk halls of Hall of Fame in Foxborough

John Hannah (center) blocked for a lot of quarterbacks during his Hall of Fame career — but never before did he have to watch out for six Tom Bradys at once.

FOXBOROUGH — Len St. Jean and John Hannah stood at the front of the theater and answered questions. The theater is on the third floor of the Hall of Fame at Gillette Stadium – home of the New England Patriots.

“My team was definitely more of a family,’’ said Hannah. “We didn’t only play football together, we hung out. We were always there for each other and I thought of them as my family.”

St. Jean added, “We had great times with all the Patriots.”

St. Jean and Hannah played together for one year (1973). St. Jean was an All-Pro lineman who played with the Patriots for 10 years (1964-73). Hannah played for the Patriots for 13 years (1973-85).

They were asked if they gave up a lot to be a member of the Patriots. Hannah explained that he had to give up time being with his family, he had to watch what he ate so he could take care of his body, and he couldn’t stay out late because he needed rest. He also had to leave his home in Alabama to come to the Patriots.

But, Hannah said, “It was all worth it.”

John Hannah is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is also in the Patriots Hall of Fame for being the best offensive linemen of all time.

When you think about the New England Patriots, what questions come to mind? How were they invented? When did they start?

The Hall of Fame opens the window of Patriots history that will answer all of these questions and more. The Hall is at Patriot Place in Foxborough.

The Hall has everything from trophies to Super Bowl rings. It also has educational games for kids to play, and it is above a gift shop full of jerseys and other souvenirs.

When you walk in on the third floor, there are three huge screens that all were at an angle. One is on the ceiling and the two others are in the wall, so you have to lay on your back or your side to see. The screens showed memorable plays by the New England Patriots.

There are two other areas on the third floor, one to your right and one to your left. One shows specific players, tells about their childhoods, and has pictures of them at some of their best games. The other door leads to past players’ uniforms and equipment.

Behind the screens is the theater, which shows a 17-minute movie about the team and its history.

Not only does the Hall of Fame have the history of the Patriots, but it has activities that make you feel like a Patriot.

On the second floor, there’s an interactive center where you can play games and have fun. You can kick a football and try to get a field goal like Stephen Gostkowski. Or you can see if you can jump as high as Randy Moss.

You can try on Tom Brady’s uniform in a place that looked like a locker room and you can listen to him give plays inside a huddle. You can kick a field goal in the last seconds to win the Super Bowl. You can stand in a Duck Boat and imagine that you’re in a victory parade. You can try on a Super Bowl championship ring.

Have you ever wondered how you compare to an average pro football player? Well there is a game that weighs you and tells you how you compare. Have you ever wondered how fast you respond to a whistle? There is another game that allows you to slam into Tedy Bruschi at the blow of a whistle.

There’s a place where you can take a picture with the three Super Bowl trophies. There’s so much stuff inside the building, for a football fan, you can’t catch your breath until you leave.

Outside, on the field, the first thing that pops into your head is wondering how the players can run up and down the field without hyperventilating. The field and stadium are much bigger in person. For a fan, Gillette Stadium is breathtaking no matter what part you are in.

During Len St. Jean’s time in football, the Patriots traveled for a home field to places like BU, Fenway Park, and even Birmingham, Ala., before moving to Foxborough.

“It still pinches me when I come here and see a beautiful home field because we didn’t have that back then,’’ said St. Jean.

St. Jean and John Hannah both said they had other challenges they had to overcome.

St. Jean said that one of his biggest problems was that he was on the short side for a football player (5 feet 11 inches). He had some difficulties because the other players were really big and tall. To help overcome these problems he said he worked out every day and tried to eat as much as he could. He was smaller but, he said, he had all his strength in his upper body.

Hannah, on the other hand, said all his strength was below his waist, in his legs, and he had long arms. He said that he, too, was on the smaller side, but his strength was running. Because he was also small (6 feet 2 inches), he had to work 10 times harder for his playing time.

St. Jean was asked if he ever got scared before games.

“Just because I’m small doesn’t mean I was intimidated by the bigger players,” he said. “It made me stronger to know that I had competition.”

Talking to John Hannah and Len St. Jean today is like, in 20 years, talking to Tom Brady when he’s retired, but still remembered.

John Hannah and Len St. Jean will always be remembered, too.

(Story reported and written by Watertown Splash staff reporters Francesca B., Emily C., Shannon C., Rebecca C., Kaylee C., Sarah G., Lauren K., Danielle K., Sophia K., Jessica L., Christina M., Danielle M., Katie M., Madeline R., Hayley S., and Terry Z.)

(For more information about the Hall at Patriot Place, go to www.patriot-place.com/thehall.aspx.)

— Nov. 25, 2009 —