The New England Patriots held their annual Hall of Fame nomination committee meeting today to select this year’s candidates for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Before that meeting, a 10-person senior selection committee met to discuss Hall of Fame contenders that have been retired for at least 25 years and selected offensive tackle Leon Gray (1973-78) to the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Gray was a third-round draft pick in 1973 by the Miami Dolphins as an offensive tackle out of Jackson State. He was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. By the 1976 season, he was viewed as arguably the best left tackle in the game. He was a key member of an offensive line that allowed a franchise-low 14 sacks in 1977. Gray teamed with Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah to form what is generally considered one of the best guard/tackle tandems in NFL history. At the end of the 1976 season, Gray was selected to play in the Pro Bowl – the first of two such honors as a Patriot and the first of four trips to the Pro Bowl during his 11-year NFL career.
In 1976, Gray helped power a Patriots rushing game that averaged 210.6 yards per game (which remains a franchise record) and led the Patriots to their first 11-win season in franchise history. In 1978, Gray once again paved the way as the Patriots surpassed their season rushing record with 3,165 yards, an NFL record that still stands 41 years later. Gray was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly and the PFWA. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time. After six seasons with the Patriots, Gray finished his career with Houston (1979-81) and New Orleans (1982-83). Sadly, Gray died in November of 2001 at the age of 49.
Gray was a finalist for Patriots Hall of Fame consideration in 2013 and 2015. He is the third Patriots Hall of Fame inductee to be selected by the senior selection committee.