Legendary New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law earned a reputation for picking off the best quarterbacks of his era.
Law was responsible for two of rookie quarterback Peyton Manning’s career-high 28 interceptions in 1998. Law had a league-leading nine interceptions that year.
Law also scored on a pick-six off eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Behind Law’s exploits, the Patriots won three Vince Lombardi Trophies in four years. He was so good, the NFL even named a rule after him: “The Ty Law Rule.”
No wonder Law, an eight-time Pro Bowler, became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
Without a doubt, Ty Law was one of the best defensive backs in New England Patriots history.
Tajuan Ernest “Ty” Law was born to parents Larry and Diane in Aliquippa, PA on February 10, 1974.
Aliquippa is a Western Pennsylvania city that has produced football legends such as Mike Ditka, Sean Gilbert, and Tony Dorsett.
Dorsett, the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back, is Law’s uncle.
Law’s mother Diane was just sixteen years old when she gave birth to him.
Law mentioned in his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in the summer of 2019 his grandfather, who he fondly called “Pap,” raised him in a seedy, drug-, and gang-infested part of Aliquippa.
“Pap” was a steel mill worker in Western Pennsylvania.
Law’s grandmother “Nanna” passed away when he was twelve years old. Consequently, “Pap” bore most of the parenting duties himself: he brought Law to his football practices when he turned seven years old through his high school days.
Years later, Law discovered “Pap” took $5,000 worth of mortgage from their house payment just so he could buy a car – a Chrysler LaBaron – for his grandson.
“Pap” fell behind on his house payments and had to file for bankruptcy.
“I could never repay him for that,” Law said as he was enshrined in Canton in 2019. “He sacrificed so much for me.”
During Law’s formative years on the gridiron, everybody called him “The Next Tony Dorsett.”
It wasn’t just because Dorsett was Law’s uncle: the latter also played running back while he was growing up in Aliquippa.
However, one play in football changed that perception forever.
During a title game at The Pit, Law eluded a tackle in the backfield and lost a cleat. He took off running more than 60 yards toward the end zone wearing just one shoe.
— Chris Harlan (@CHarlan_Trib) January 27, 2022
Law attended Aliquippa High School in Beaver County, PA.
He spent every summer of his high school life with his Uncle Tony who played running back for the Dallas Cowboys and his cousin Anthony Dorsett, Jr. in Dallas, TX.
It was during that time that Law realized he wanted to play football for a living one day.
Law suited up for the Aliquippa Quipps’ football, basketball, and track teams. He was a Jack of all trades for their football team: he played running back, wide receiver, cornerback, and safety.
Law wasn’t too shabby on the hardcourt, either: he was the MVP of the Quipps’ basketball squad.
Law earned several accolades during his senior season in 1991: he became a Pennsylvania Big 33 All-Star and earned a spot in Parade Magazine’s High School All-American roster.
Law helped the Quips win the 1991 PIAA AA State Championship – it was one of his proudest accomplishments during his high school football career.
Ty Law eventually made a name for himself as a member of the Michigan Wolverines – one of the most successful college football programs in the nation.
College Days With The Michigan Wolverines
Law tasted real independence for the first time in his life when he attended the University of Michigan as a true freshman in the 1992 NCAA season.
According to the Wolverines’ official athletics website, Michigan defensive assistant coach Jim Herrmann convinced Law to commit to the program.
On the other hand, junior Wolverines cornerback Alfie Burch acted as his mentor.
On Law’s first day with the squad, he looked for his name on the defensive backs depth chart posted on the Wolverines locker room.
He didn’t find it.
Instead, he saw his name at the very bottom of the wide receivers depth chart.
Several thoughts surged into Law’s mind at that moment.
First, he thought these Michigan defensive backs just got smoked by the Washington Huskies in the previous season’s Rose Bowl.
Second, he felt his coaches disrespected him.
He remembered the time when Michigan’s coaches paid him and “Pap” a visit in Aliquippa. They promised Law was a big part of their long-term plan.
When Law showed up in Ann Arbor, he got the impression the Wolverines were going to redshirt him and played him on their scout team. He thought he could’ve played right away in another school.
Law never wanted to be part of that plan. He had other visions of grandeur: he wanted to become one of the best defensive backs in the country.
Law also had heard people say he’s never going to be good enough. Instead of letting them get to him, he used their doubts as motivation:
“That pissed me off. Yes, it did,” Law said in his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in 2019. “Once I arrived at Michigan, I had to fight. I had to fight hard to get on the field and start as a freshman.”
That’s exactly what Ty Law did.
Law’s six starts in 1992 earned him the distinction as the first true freshman to start more than one game in a season.
His breakout game occurred against Michigan’s archenemy, the Ohio State Buckeyes, during the 1993 NCAA season.
Wolverines defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr challenged Law to not let Buckeyes wide receiver Joey Galloway remove his helmet – something he always did after scoring a touchdown.
Galloway, who struggled all game long with three catches and 47 receiving yards, never did.
On the other hand, Law finished with two interceptions and two pass breakups in Michigan’s resounding 28-0 shutout victory.
Law had a penchant for putting the clamps on the opposition’s top wide receiver since then.
Law earned unanimous All-Big Ten and All-American honors during his sophomore and junior campaigns, respectively. The previous freshman who pulled off that elusive feat was tailback Jamie Morris nine years earlier, per MGoBlue.com.
Law was a three-year starter who had 27 consecutive career regular-season starts for the Wolverines. His 19 career pass breakups rank him third in program history.
He finished his three-year stint in Ann Arbor with 164 total tackles and eight interceptions.
Michigan averaged eight wins from 1992 to 1994. The Wolverines won three consecutive bowl games (including the 1992 Rose Bowl) with Ty Law as a member of their secondary.
Ty Law decided to forego his senior season at Ann Arbor.
When Law read a letter from the bank saying “Pap” fell behind on his mortgage payment, there was only one thing he could do: leave Michigan one year early, declare for the 1995 NFL Draft, and help his beloved grandfather.
Ty Law did more than just those: he went on to become one of the most phenomenal defensive backs who ever wore a New England Patriots jersey.
Pro Football Career
The New England Patriots made Ty Law the 23rd overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft.
In one of his first interviews as a rookie, he said his goal was to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, per MGoBlue.com.
Law eventually achieved that lofty goal some twenty-four years later.
It didn’t take him long to make a profound impact on the Patriots defense.
New England traveled to Dallas to take on the defending Super Bowl champions on December 15, 1996.
Law and Co. faced a Dallas Cowboys juggernaut that featured quarterback Troy Aikman, wide receiver Michael Irvin, and running back Emmitt Smith.
Law was coming off a stellar defensive performance against the New York Jets the week before. His 38-yard pick-six helped the Patriots secure the victory.
He pleaded with Patriots head coach Bill Parcells he would put the clamps on Irvin. Parcells eventually agreed and watched Law record two interceptions while guarding a future Hall of Fame wide receiver.
The Patriots prevailed, 12-6. They reached Super Bowl XXXI but lost to the Green Bay Packers, 35-21.
Law continued playing at a high level for the next four seasons. He averaged four interceptions per year from 1997 to 2000.
Law’s 1998 NFL season was one of his best. He had a league-leading nine interceptions (two came at the expense of Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Peyton Manning), one fumble recovery, and one defensive touchdown that year.
Consequently, Ty Law earned the first of his two First-Team All-Pro selections in 1998.
The Patriots averaged eight wins per season from 1997 to 2000. The best they could do during that span was an AFC Divisional Round appearance in 1997.
Unfortunately, the Patriots lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a low-scoring affair on January 3, 1998, 7-6.
Ty Law went through a rough patch during the 1999 NFL season.
A day before the Patriots flew south to play a road game against the Miami Dolphins, Law just stepped out of team chapel and received a call from one of his cousins.
She told him between sobs that Pap was gone.
As painful as it was for Law, he wrote on the PlayersTribune.com he had to trudge forward and stop sulking. It was how Pap would’ve wanted him to go on.
At the 4:19 mark when Ty Law starts to cry about his grandfather….man.
That’s some real stuff.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) August 2, 2019
Behind second-year quarterback Tom Brady, New England went 11-5 in the 2001 NFL season.
Brady took over the starting duties from the injured Drew Bledsoe on September 23, 2001 and never looked back for the next two decades.
When the Patriots had a team dinner at Abe & Louie’s in Boston, they wondered how things would shape up when Bledsoe returned.
Ty Law recalled Brady saying something he never forgot.
“He’s not getting his f—–g job back!” Brady told his teammates (via ThePlayersTribune.com).
As for Law, his defensive prowess helped New England win three Vince Lombardi Trophies in the next four years.
Law and the Patriots faced a daunting task in Super Bowl XXXVI – they had to stifle the high-octane offense of the then-St. Louis Rams.
Warner, Bruce, and Faulk are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Despite the Rams’ reputation of running the opposition to the ground, the Patriots remained unfazed.
New England’s defense forced St. Louis into committing three turnovers. The first came at the expense of Warner, who threw a pick-six to Law in the first quarter.
Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel was on the verge of sacking Warner when the Rams quarterback threw to the right sideline.
Law was at the right place at the right time. He took it the other way and scored in his first Super Bowl appearance.
The Patriots won their first Super Bowl Trophy with a resounding 20-17 victory.
Without Ty Law, the @Patriots dynasty may have never started.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) February 2, 2019
Ty Law has his own rule in the NFL rulebook.
It all started in the AFC Divisional Round game against the Patriots’ nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts, on January 19, 2004.
New England’s roughhousing tactics wore thin on Colts general manager Bill Polian, who watched the game from the press box.
Law even flung Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison out of bounds when he ran a route.
While Polian let that one slide, it was the constant beatdowns tight end Marcus Pollard received from Patriots linebackers Willie McGinest and Roman Phifer that drew his ire.
In one instance, Phifer yanked Pollard as he was about to make a catch.
That was the last straw for Polian as he watched his Colts fall to the Patriots, 24-14.
Law and safety Rodney Harrison joined forces in frustrating Harrison, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, all game long.
Law finished the game with three interceptions while Harrison had a game-high 10 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble.
Polian and Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher were members of the NFL’s Competition Committee at the time. Within 70 days, the two instigated a rule that cracked down on downfield contact that went past five yards.
The league would also strictly impose pass interference penalties – especially the defensive kind.
Fisher told NBC Sports Boston a defensive back who grabs a receiver “materially” affects the latter’s progress. When that happens, an official should call defensive pass interference.
The “Ty Law Rule” was officially born.
Really interesting perspective from Ty Law on the modern day NFL rules that ferociously protect quarterbacks. pic.twitter.com/BMARODeCeJ
— Mark Dondero (@MarkDondero) October 11, 2018
For his part, Law didn’t take the new rule as an insult.
In fact, in the days leading up to his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the summer of 2019, he told NBC Sports Boston he took it as a compliment:
“I didn’t take it personally. I took it as a compliment. I don’t know how they got it in the rule book as far as ‘Rule 6.18’ or whatever but they want to call it ‘The Ty Law Rule?’ Really? I like that. That feels good. Not gonna lie.”
Law averaged five interceptions per year from 2002 to 2003. He earned another First-Team All-Pro berth and his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance during that span.
Law had six interceptions in 2003. He recorded one of them against Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve “Air” McNair in Week 5. McNair threw a pick-six just to Law after the two-minute warning that sealed Tennessee’s 38-30 loss to New England.
The Patriots won their second Super Bowl victory that season with a narrow 32-29 win over the resurgent Carolina Panthers.
The season after Ty Law earned his second Super Bowl ring was one he’d rather forget.
Prior to the 2004 NFL campaign, the Patriots asked him to take a pay cut on the seven-year, $51 million contract he signed in 1999.
Law flat-out refused.
He reasoned he had to “feed his family,” per NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran.
He also told Curran at the time he didn’t like his style of reporting.
During his conversation with Curran in the Patriots locker room, Law took a shot at Peyton Manning – a quarterback he’s had success with over the years.
“Look how much Peyton Manning makes! Nobody complains about Peyton Manning! And Peyton Manning is going to put me in the Hall!” Law told NBC Sports Boston.
Remember that time Ty Law picked off Peyton Manning THREE TIMES in the AFC Championship Game?
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) April 20, 2020
While New England went on an NFL-record 21-game undefeated streak leading up to the October 31, 2004 showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ty Law’s career with the Patriots came to an unfortunate end.
Law, who was raised just twenty-five minutes away in Aliquippa, PA, broke his foot while covering Steelers Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward in the first quarter.
The Patriots lost more than just a game – they lost their best defensive back.
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran asked Law why he didn’t take a cart off the field after the injury.
Law looked at Curran like he was out of his mind.
“I’m not taking a cart off the field in PIttsburgh. Are you crazy?! I’d walk off if I had no legs!” Law told NBC Sports Boston.
The Patriots released Law three weeks after he earned his third Super Bowl ring. They waived him due to his $12.5 million salary cap hit.
Law revealed on ThePlayersTribune.com he received the fateful call from New England management while he was standing up on crutches in the middle of an airport concourse.
Law labeled the experience a “bittersweet” one – he had always wanted to retire as a member of the Patriots.
“I enjoyed my years here,” Law told ESPN’s John Clayton. “I’ll look forward to my next stop.”
That next stop turned out to be the Patriots’ hated AFC East nemesis, the New York Jets.
Law was far from finished. The 31-year-old cornerback led the NFL with 10 interceptions in the 2005 NFL season.
Unfortunately, the Jets crashed and burned with just four victories in 2005.
Law then spent the next two seasons with an average Kansas City Chiefs team. He averaged three interceptions during his two-year stint from 2006 to 2007.
Law played for the Jets and the Denver Broncos in his final two seasons. He had just one interception in a combined 14 games from 2008 to 2009.
Ty Law retired from the National Football League after the 2009 NFL season.
Happy Birthday to a Patriots legend, Ty Law!
Law is a 3x Super Bowl Champion, a 2x All-Pro, a 5x Pro Bowl selection, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019. His decorated career in the NFL lasted 15 seasons, 10 of which he played in New England. pic.twitter.com/juqz7PIsMO
— Patriots Alumni (@NEPAC) February 10, 2021
He had 839 total tackles, 5.0 sacks, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 53 interceptions, and seven defensive touchdowns in his 15-year NFL career.
Ty Law has five children: Taija, Ty, Jr., Dallas, Phoenix, and Sydney. He splits his time between his homes in Lincoln, R.I. and Plantation, FL.
— Ty Law (@OfficialTyLaw) March 2, 2018
Law sold the majority of his stakes in Launch Trampoline Parks and Airtime Trampoline. He is now an equity partner of V-One Vodka, a drink fans enjoy on game day at the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium.
Law officially became a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame on August 1, 2014. He is also a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined Law on August 3, 2019.
Law’s uncle Tony Dorsett was on hand for Law’s enshrinement. The latter told MGoBlue.com joining his Uncle Tony, who he revered during his formative years, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a surreal moment.
Chris Berman introduces Ty Law at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. #Patriots
Courtesy: ESPN pic.twitter.com/c7w3DhKteq
— Morey Hershgordon (@MHershgordon) August 4, 2019
As for Law’s Hall of Fame bust, he gave it to his mother Diane.
“I gave my Hall of Fame bust to my mom and she has all my stuff,” Law told MGoBlue in October 2021.
The University of Michigan’s Hall of Honor inducted Law on October 22, 2021.