Aliquippa-tough, fleet, strong, crazy agile. All those factors contributed to Ty Law earning a spot on the NFL's 2000s all-decade team and helping the Patriots to win three Super Bowls.
The NFL always will be loaded with tough, fast, strong and agile cornerbacks, so what separates them? What allows a player like Law to gain induction into the Hall of Fame, as he will this weekend, and prevents others from breaking from the pack of very talented players?
Smarts. Law's a very smart guy on any subject and was a very intelligent, instinctive football player. He's so smart that I wish that the NFL had consulted him before panicking over one horrendous, pivotal postseason non-call by a game official.
The understandable reaction to the officiating crew missing Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman's blatant pass interference committed against the Saints' Tommylee Lewis with 1:45 left and scored tied 20-20, completely embarrassed NFL owners into a knee-jerk overreaction that will make games less entertaining.
For 2019, pass-interference calls and non-calls can be challenged by coaches. After the two-minute warning in each half and in overtime, coaches won't be allowed to challenge, but replay officials can stop the game for reviews.
Playing cornerback, already the toughest job in football in many ways, just grew even more difficult as the flow of the game takes another hit.
Law has to be disappointed with the rule change, correct?
"Yes, I am disappointed in that because it's going to take away from the game," Law said on a Tuesday conference call. "The referees are out there for a reason. Yes, they don't make every call right, but on something like that, a pass interference, once you start opening that can of worms it's going to get ugly and the game is going to get a lot longer."
Knowing how to get physical without getting flagged was one of the many great skills Law brought to the job. Now players will learn on the fly as to where to draw that line between how physical is too physical. Big Brother is watching now from every angle.
"There is going to be a lot of gray area because I think the defensive players get the bulk of the blame for pushing and for this and that, but there's a lot going on between a defensive back and a wide receiver, especially when you're running down field," Law said. "You've got two of the fastest guys out there on the field and things happen in a split second, so if they start all of a sudden throwing the red flag out to stop the game and say 'This may or may not have been pass interference,' I think it's going to disrupt the game."
Of course it is. And it's going to result in more ticky-tack calls on players defending passes, which in turn will lead to more receivers whining for calls on insignificant contact. It'll be a tough mess to clean up.
Remember that would-be touchdown pass Brandin Cooks couldn't hang on to with four-plus minutes left and the Patriots leading, 10-3, the one Duron Harmon and Stephon Gilmore defended? Well, the camera view from behind the end zone shows Gilmore reaching across Cooks' left arm.
Cooks didn't plead with the referee, didn't look for anyone to blame for not catching the ball. Under the new rules, Sean McVay would have tossed the red challenge flag, likely gotten the call, and the Rams would have had a short distance to cover for a touchdown.
The Patriots dominated the game and still would have found a way to win, but the play demonstrates one aspect of how the new rule hurt the game.
Receivers will be flagged more often, too, but it will hinder defenders far more.
"It's still about the offense," Law said. "It's still about scoring points. I understand the business aspect of it (offense sells), but you have to let the game be played. (Offensive players) are just as guilty of pushing and grabbing and being physical as well, so I just don't know what this is going to do to the game. It's going to be interesting to see, but it's definitely not good, in my opinion."
The NFL is on the wrong side of the Law who knows best on this issue. After a year of chaos, restoring order will be in order. Will the owners have the guts to admit they goofed?