Drew Bledsoe was one of the most prolific passers football fans had ever seen.
Bledsoe’s 3,839 completions, 44,611 passing yards, and 251 touchdown passes are among the most in NFL history.
A freak injury during the 2001 NFL season could’ve ended Bledsoe’s career.
While he eventually recovered, the turn of events significantly altered the course of New England Patriots franchise history.
Despite the harrowing misfortune, Drew Bledsoe’s resilience and tenacity set him apart from other gunslingers during his era.
Bledsoe will always be one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever wore a Patriots jersey.
Drew McQueen Bledsoe was born to parents Mac and Barbara on February 14, 1972 in Ellensburg, WA.
Mac Bledsoe was an English teacher and football coach who ran a football camp. On the other hand, his wife Barb taught at Lewis & Clark Middle School in Yakima, WA.
Mac Bledsoe’s football camp gave young Drew Bledsoe a chance to rub elbows with coaches and pro football players who assisted his dad.
Drew was a huge Seattle Seahawks fan as a child. He met some of their players such as Jim Zorn, Kenny Easley, Dave Krieg, and Steve Largent at a summer football camp, per Great Northwest Wine’s Andy Perdue.
He has a younger brother Adam. Even though Drew is older by six years, they are very close.
“Very close,” Adam Bledsoe told The Seattle Times’ Scott Spruill in 1995 when Drew was in his third year with the New England Patriots. “Ever since he moved away we get together as often as we can. He’s a great football player, but he’s a great person and role model, too.”
— Drew Bledsoe (@DrewBledsoe) January 4, 2017
When Drew was growing up, he had a babysitter named Dori Bennett.
She told The Seattle Times’ Greg Bishop in 2005 he had always been competitive: whether it’s ping-pong, football, foosball, or Easter egg hunts, Drew wanted to win.
Even as a child, Bledsoe was adventurous. His father Mac first brought him to the Cascade mountain region when he was just two years old. It was a family tradition that Drew’s grandfather Stu started when Mac was a youngster.
Dori’s father Shorty taught Drew how to pass the football. Bledsoe was just one year old when he showed up at Bennett’s yearly Northwest Football Camp. He went to the bathroom wearing alligator shoes that belonged to legendary Oakland Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
When Bledsoe surpassed the 40,000-yard passing career mark more than 30 years later, he gave the game ball to Bennett with a note that read, “Hey Shorty, thanks for teaching me how to throw it.”
Bledsoe attended Walla Walla High School. He suited up for the track, basketball, and football teams.
An incident during Bledsoe’s sophomore year was an eerie precursor to his life-threatening on-field experience in the National Football League some fourteen years later.
Bledsoe was on the receiving end of a vicious hit that bruised his liver. He managed to finish the game but had to stay in the hospital afterward.
After that incident, Mac Bledsoe told TheRinger.com’s Katie Baker in January 2017 he had to keep a closer eye on his older son.
Two years later, Drew Bledsoe had a Washington state record 509 passing yards in a single game while his dad cheered him on in the stands.
It came as no surprise Bledsoe earned Washington State Football Player of the Year honors as a senior.
Drew Bledsoe would go on to re-write the record books at Washington State University.
College Days With The Washington State Cougars
Drew Bledsoe chose the Washington State Cougars because their Pullman, WA campus was relatively close to his hometown of Walla Walla, WA, per TheSpun.com’s Steve Driscoll.
Bledsoe also wanted to play for Cougars head football coach Mike Price.
Bledsoe had 1,386 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions in seven games as a true freshman quarterback in the 1990 NCAA season.
The Cougars won just three games that year and didn’t receive a bowl invite for the second straight year.
Bledsoe had 2,741 passing yards, 17 touchdown passes, and 15 interceptions in his first full year as the Cougars starting quarterback in 1991.
He tied the school’s single-game record with five touchdown passes in a 55-7 romp over the Oregon State Beavers on October 5, 1991.
Alas, Washington State didn’t fare much better. The Cougars had a dismal 4-7 win-loss record in Price’s third year at the helm.
Bledsoe had 3,246 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in his junior season at Washington State in 1992.
The Cougars’ 9-3 record was their best in four seasons. Washington State’s emphatic 42-23 victory over their in-state rivals, the fifth-ranked Washington Huskies, was one of their most memorable in 1992.
They beat the Utah Utes in the 1992 Copper Bowl (now known as the Guaranteed Rate Bowl), 31-28.
Drew Bledsoe had 476 passing yards and two touchdowns in the win. Consequently, he was named the 1992 Copper Bowl MVP.
He finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting and became a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, Bledsoe also earned All-American and Pac-10 Conference MVP honors in 1992.
Bledsoe decided to skip his senior season at Washington State to declare for the 1993 NFL Draft.
Bledsoe’s 7,373 passing yards and 46 touchdown passes are only second behind Jack Thompson in WSU school history.
He also concluded his three-year stint at Washington State with the most pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and total offense in a single game and in a single season.
Little did Drew Bledsoe know he would become part of a freak incident that significantly altered the course of NFL history.
Pro Football Career
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks had first and second selections of the 1993 NFL Draft.
It was obvious to many football fans Drew Bledsoe would play for either team.
He told Perdue in 2015 it wouldn’t have mattered either way:
“It was close. There was part of me that wanted to play here in Seattle. But there was also a part of me that thought it was kind of nice – especially early in my career – to be able to play three thousand miles away from home.”
The second possibility materialized. The New England Patriots made Drew Bledsoe the first overall pick.
Bledsoe had 2,494 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in his rookie year in 1993. The Patriots stumbled to a 5-11 win-loss mark and fell out of postseason contention for the seventh straight year.
A turning point came in a Week 10 game against the Minnesota Vikings a season later.
Bledsoe’s 45 completions set a new single-game record. He also had 426 passing yards, three touchdowns, and zero picks in the 26-20 overtime victory.
Remarkably, New England fought back from a 17-point halftime deficit.
November 13, 1994
22 YO Drew Bledsoe completes a 14-yard TD pass to Kevin Turner in OT as the Patriots come back from 20 points down to defeat the Vikings (26-20)
Drew Bledsoe passing
Attempts – 70 – NFL record
Completions – 45 – NFL record (tie) pic.twitter.com/y5Y73bltD4
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) November 13, 2020
After a horrendous 3-6 start, the Patriots won seven in a row and eventually reached the Wild Card round.
They’d eventually make their second Super Bowl appearance two years later. They would also make the postseason three straight years from 1996 to 1998 with Bledsoe under center.
Drew Bledsoe’s adventurous streak continued after his second season in the National Football League in 1995.
That year, he took his dad Mac on a helicopter skiing trip in British Columbia, Canada.
Mac Bledsoe, who had a tear in his eye as the chopper lifted off the ground, told Baker in 2017 the trip reminded him of his mountain expeditions when Drew was still a child.
“Doing that with my son – that multiplied the experience times ten. Because in my mind, every day, when we would be loading up in the helicopter, or getting on top of a mountain, I’d be replaying, in my mind, those pictures of him in his little red snow suit, up there with the ski patrol.”
Surprisingly, Drew Bledsoe’s fascination with skiing seeped into his professional life.
When Bledsoe signed his second contract with the Patriots, he told TheRinger.com they included a clause he had to pay them a certain amount if he hurt himself while skiing.
Bledsoe remained undaunted and undeterred. Not even a clause like that could stop him from hitting the slopes.
The solution: he hired an underwriter from Lloyd’s of London who insured him whenever he went skiing. It all came down to twenty-five to thirty days of annual insurance.
After becoming perennial postseason contenders in Bledsoe’s second year in the pro ranks, the Patriots took a step backward from 1999 to 2000.
They averaged just seven wins per season during that two-year stretch.
Prior to the start of the 2001 NFL campaign, Bledsoe signed a record 10-year, $103 million contract with New England.
The New England Patriots’ game against their AFC East rivals New York Jets on September 23, 2001 would change the course of franchise history for the next twenty years.
Bledsoe sustained a life-threatening injury after Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit him as he dove for the first down marker on 3rd and 10.
After Bledsoe finished the next series, Patriots backup quarterback Tom Brady took over and never relinquished his role for the next two decades.
Brady swore it was the loudest hit he had ever heard in his pro football career.
“It was the loudest hit I could ever remember hearing,” Brady told NFL.com fifteen years later. “Drew was so tough and he got up and came to the sideline and his face mask was smashed. I saw and heard the hit, and it was a crushing hit.”
Bledsoe initially appeared to have suffered a concussion. However, his elevated heart rate suggested otherwise.
It was Patriots trainer Ron O’Neil who thought something was amiss with Bledsoe after the game. O’Neil wanted to check on Bledsoe but the Patriots quarterback wanted to join team prayer first.
O’Neil was adamant and Bledsoe finally relented. Patriots team doctor Bert Zarins confirmed Bledsoe’s increased heart rate could be something more serious than a concussion.
After Bledsoe’s brother Adam rushed him to the Mass General Hospital in Boston in an ambulance, doctors discovered the Lewis hit sheared a blood vessel in his chest region. Bledsoe hemorrhaged a pint of blood per hour.
Bledsoe passed out inside the ambulance because of blood loss. Adam Bledsoe grew hysterical and told the emergency responders to step on the gas. He thought his older brother was dying.
When Mac Bledsoe visited Drew at Mass General Hospital, the latter’s first words didn’t have anything to do with him.
Instead, Drew Bledsoe talked about Tom Brady.
“The world’s going to get to see what a good quarterback Tom Brady is,” Bledsoe told his father (via TheRinger.com). “He’s gonna be able to sign a free-agent contract with any team he wants.”
While Bledsoe’s words were prophetic, he had no idea it would be with the Patriots with whom Brady would win six Super Bowl rings in the next two decades.
Bledsoe eventually recovered from the horrific ordeal and went on to play in the NFL for five more years.
He thought O’Neil’s timely intervention saved not only his career, but his life as well.
“I don’t think I really knew how serious everything was for a couple days afterward, Bledsoe told NFL.com in 2016. “But yeah, if our trainer hadn’t intervened – because I wanted to go home – and if our team doctor hadn’t sent me to the hospital, things could have been really different.”
With Bledsoe watching Brady and his Patriots teammates from the sidelines, New England beat the then-St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Drew Bledsoe had his first and only Super Bowl ring. He spent some time with his father Mac in his Montana cabin after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl title.
The Patriots traded Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills on April 21, 2002.
Bledsoe enjoyed one of his best pro seasons in 2002. He had 4,359 passing yards and 24 touchdowns that year. He consequently earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod.
He never missed a snap with the Bills as he played in all 48 games from 2002 to 2004.
Regrettably, Buffalo averaged just eight wins per season during that stretch.
The Bills eventually released Bledsoe at the end of the 2004 NFL campaign to make way for rookie starting quarterback J.P. Losman.
Bledsoe signed with the Dallas Cowboys where he was reunited with Bill Parcells, his head coach with the Patriots from 1993 to 1996.
Bledsoe’s 3,639 passing yards in 2005 marked the ninth time he threw for at least 3,000 yards in a season. It tied Warren Moon for fourth in league history.
Bledsoe’s erratic play limited him to just six games in 2006. Future Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo replaced him as the starter.
Dallas released Bledsoe at the end of the 2006 NFL season. He officially announced his retirement on April 12, 2007.
Drew Bledsoe had 44,611 passing yards and 251 touchdown passes in his 14-year NFL career.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe was the #1 overall pick in the 1993 #NFLDraft by the New England Patriots. Bledsoe played 14 seasons in the NFL and retired 7th all-time in passing yards, 5th in pass attempts and completions, and 13th in career TD passes. #NFL #90s #2000s #Patriots pic.twitter.com/uDu9OmFIoW
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) June 14, 2020
What was Bledsoe’s secret for being such a prolific passer?
“Timing. Accuracy. Going to the right place at the right time,” he told ESPN’s Bruce Schoenfeld in February 2020. “That’s what makes a great quarterback. Not the strength of your arm. There weren’t many balls that I threw as hard as I could.”
When Baker asked Bledsoe what his proudest moment on the gridiron was, he never mentioned any accolades or the years when the New England Patriots became contenders with him under center.
Instead, his proudest moment was never staying down on the field.
“I’m pretty proud that I never stayed down on the field, not ever,” Bledsoe told TheRinger.com in January 2017. “They never had to come and get me. Even the hit that ultimately allowed Tommy in the game – I got up and went back in the game the next series.”
That statement was a throwback to the time he bruised his liver during his sophomore season at Walla Walla High School. Even though Bledsoe took a vicious hit, he managed to finish the game.
That, in a nutshell, was the kind of player Drew Bledsoe was: tough and resilient despite taking the hardest hits imaginable on the gridiron.
Drew Bledsoe, his wife Maura, and their four children Stuart, John, Henry, and Healy reside in Bend, OR.
Bledsoe and his close friend Chris Figgins founded the Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla, WA in 2007.
— Drew Bledsoe (@DrewBledsoe) April 13, 2020
According to Schoenfeld, Bledsoe first showed interest in the wine business as a 25-year-old quarterback for the New England Patriots.
Back then, Bledsoe had a keen interest in Leonetti merlot and carbernet. Next thing he knew, he asked his teammates Mike Vrabel, Bruce Armstrong, and Damon Huard to each bring a bottle for some wine tasting at his house.
It turned out Chris Figgins, a guy who Bledsoe hung out with at Walla Walla High School, made the wines at Leonetti. Bledsoe dubbed him “the winemaking rock star,” per ESPN.
While many former athletes who became wine connoisseurs treat it as a hobby, Drew Bledsoe doesn’t. He takes it more seriously than others.
“This isn’t just ‘dumb jock throws money at winery,'” he told ESPN in February 2020. “Or even ‘smart jock.’ I wanted to learn. And if you come into it with that attitude, with true humility, it’s amazing what people will tell you.”
Bledsoe didn’t learn about the business by reading books. He dug his heels in and learned about accounting, distribution, marketing, and customer service on the fly.
“As a person now, I see him as a business guy,” Bledsoe’s wife Maura told ESPN. “He’s got a brilliant, brilliant business mind.”
Doubleback Winery’s cabernet sauvignons have been recognized as one of the best and most in-demand wines in the Pacific Northwest region. Each bottle costs $90 to $120.
Bledsoe initiated another project called Bledsoe Family Winery so he could utilize other grape varieties such as chardonnay and syrah, per Schoenfeld.
— Drew Bledsoe (@DrewBledsoe) April 9, 2020
When Schoenfeld asked Bledsoe to compare wine-making to football, the latter could never put wine above the gridiron.
“There’s nothing that could ever match the thrill of playing quarterback in the NFL,” Bledsoe quipped. “Seventy thousand people screaming. Or even more fun: seventy thousand opposing fans going quiet.”
Bledsoe became a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 2011. That same year, he and his two business partners launched the Montana Ski Company.
The Washington Sports Hall of Fame inducted Bledsoe a year later.
Bledsoe admitted to Colin Cowherd in November 2021 he felt people have treated his NFL career like a footnote to Tom Brady’s:
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that stuff, and I love Tom to this day. The only thing that bothers me sometimes though, and this is just being totally honest, I feel like my career has kinda been treated like a footnote – you know like it’s just a footnote to Tom’s career.”
However, Bledsoe also loves the sense of accomplishment in wine-making. He also told ESPN “it feels a lot better on a Monday morning.”
He maintained he feels no animosity toward Brady who took over the Patriots’ starting quarterback job when he sustained that near-fatal injury in 2001.
“Tommy’s a great friend, and I have more respect for him than anybody,” Bledsoe told Schoenfeld. “He’s always kind of been a mid- to low-tier talent, but he’s at the pinnacle of leadership, and example, and work ethic.”
20 years ago today, Tom Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe.
The rest is history 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 pic.twitter.com/6knPuY8AZc
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 23, 2021
Bledsoe was a prolific passer who had 44,611 passing yards in his 14-year NFL career. He told Cowherd only Dan Marino. Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, Warren Moon, Brett Favre and Vinny Testaverde had more passing yards than him when he retired after the 2006 NFL campaign.
Bledsoe noted he and the other quarterbacks he rattled off have been bypassed by younger gunslingers since then. In hindsight, he still felt “it’s a pretty good list to be on.” per FOXSports.com.
He has never departed from football since he retired in April 2007.
Bledsoe served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of Summit High School in Bend, OR.
His son John has followed in his footsteps as a Washington State Cougars quarterback. Bledsoe’s other son Stuart was a lacrosse player at Cal Poly.
He’s also been following the game as a fan. At the time of his interview with Schoenfeld, he spoke highly of Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence.