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30 Moments of Pride: Ryan O’Callaghan protects Tom Brady in Patriots’ 16-0 game

O’Callaghan, who came out as gay after his retirement, received his only start of the season in Week 17 of the Patriots’ historic undefeated campaign.

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New York Jets vs New England Patriots
Ryan O’Callaghan played in 15 games for the Patriots during their undefeated season.

For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.

Today, we revisit Dec. 29, 2007, when Ryan O’Callaghan started for the Patriots in their 16-0 game.

It was Ryan O’Callaghan’s lone start of the season, and undoubtedly the biggest game of his career. As the New England Patriots were gunning for an undefeated campaign, O’Callaghan received the call to start at right tackle, and help protect Tom Brady against the New York Giants’ fearsome pass-rush.

Five weeks later in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants pulverized Brady, sacking him five times and holding the greatest offense in NFL history to just 14 points. But on this late-season Saturday night in the Meadowlands, Brady was virtually untouched. The Patriots won a shootout 38-35, clinching their 16-0 season.

“I played damn well in that game,” O’Callaghan recalled to Cyd Zeigler in his 2017 coming out piece.

The four-year NFL veteran appeared in 26 games for the Patriots in 2006 and 2007, starting in 11 contests. He played the last two seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring. O’Callaghan credits former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, who later signed him as general manager of the Chiefs, with helping him come out, and overcome a pain killer addiction. Today, O’Callaghan, who co-authored his biography with Zeigler in 2019, is now an LGBTQ advocate.

But on that December night, O’Callaghan played an important supporting role in the Patriots’ historic victory. New England scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter: Brady connecting with Randy Moss for a 65-yard touchdown, and running back Laurence Maroney bulldozing through the line for the game-capping score.

For 18 weeks, the Patriots were unbeatable, and O’Callaghan appeared in 15 of those games. While his courageous coming out will forever cement O’Callaghan’s place in NFL history, as a football player, it doesn’t get much better than that.

We’ll have another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day in June.