Tedy Bruschi remembers his first Super Bowl as much as his second, third, fourth and fifth.
The anxiety, the experience, the joy and despair made for a full gamut of super emotions for the Roseville High School graduate who never dreamed of such heights.
Bruschi, named The Bee’s No. 1 all-time prep football player in 2000, set NCAA career sack records at Arizona and then logged 13 NFL seasons at linebacker, all with the New England Patriots. He played in more Super Bowls than any local product, winning three.
Bruschi’s first Super Bowl was in 1997, in the New Orleans Superdome, against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
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“My rookie year, and I was so geeked up to play,” Bruschi recalled during a quiet moment on Super Bowl opening night in San Jose, where he was working as an analyst for ESPN. “I remember the hair standing on end, standing next to coach Bill Parcells before we ran onto the field. I had goose bumps under my pads. It was awesome. The hard part was waiting for the kickoff.”
And losing. Bruschi had two sacks, but the Packers prevailed 35-21.
New England won its next three trips to the Super Bowl, stunning defending champion St. Louis on a late field goal 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI to cap the 2001 season in New Orleans, edging Carolina 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston to conclude the 2003 campaign, and repeating the next season with a 24-21 victory over Philadelphia in Jacksonville.
Despite three victories, Bruschi still feels the sting of the Patriots’ 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. Along with losing the title game, the Patriots lost their bid to finish the 2007 season with a 19-0 record.
“We won three Super Bowls, lost two, and none was harder than the game,” Bruschi said with a frown. “Definitely that 2007 season, losing that game, was really hard. We had Junior Seau and Randy Moss, and we wanted them to achieve a Super Bowl win. And 19-0 was something we all wanted. But I’m still really proud of that team.
“It’s funny, because a lot of people talk about us losing that game and not the Giants winning it. But the Giants were the better team on that day.”
Bruschi said one of his greatest achievements was away from the field.
He suffered a stroke in January 2006, days after playing in the Pro Bowl and heading to retirement. But Bruschi said he didn’t want to bow out that way. So he recovered, rehabilitated and returned to action.
Bruschi, who became a spokesman for stroke survivors, won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award after the 2006 season, and a year later was a captain for the team that stormed into the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record.
Bruschi retired in the summer of 2009, content and proud. He joined ESPN and was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013.
“The stroke recovery made it easier for me to retire later,” Bruschi said. “I knew at the end of my career I wasn’t the same player. I’d get to Saturday of a game week, and I was finally feeling better, recovered, and the game was the next day. It takes longer to recover when you’re older. As a rookie, come Tuesday, I was ready to play the next game. I’m very satisfied with my career.”
All of this from a fellow who grew up in San Francisco playing the saxaphone more than he thought about chasing quarterbacks. It wasn’t until freshman orientation at Roseville that football struck him, thanks to coaches who urged Bruschi to give it a try.
“OK, let’s go,” Bruschi said with a laugh. “Next day, I go out for football, no cleats. Just tennis shoes and a white T-shirt. When I was older, I was watching basketball practice and asked someone, ‘What’s so hard about running up and down the floor and putting a ball through a circle?’ Guy said, ‘What’s so hard about running up and down a grass field?’
“I told him, ‘Well, he’s got to deal with me, for one.’ ”