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Thousands Gather To Send The Patriots Off To Super Bowl 5202:40
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Keith Burchall of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was excited to attend the rally as he dressed in Patriots colors and with his face painted silver. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Keith Burchall of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was excited to attend the rally as he dressed in Patriots colors and with his face painted silver. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 3 years old.

They came from all over, many arriving before dawn at the football shrine known as Gillette Stadium.

It was one more chance to wish the team well before it headed west for the Super Bowl.

Thousands of New England Patriots fans turned out Monday morning to give the Pats a rousing sendoff on their way to Minneapolis and Super Bowl 52.

"We skipped school for this today," said young fan Thatcher Schrafft. When asked if such an absence from school was OK, Thatcher replied, "Well, we're here to see Tom Brady, so I'm pretty sure."

Fans cram into the area outside of Gillette Stadium to send off the Patriots to the Super Bowl. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Fans cram into the area outside of Gillette Stadium to send off the Patriots to the Super Bowl. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Paula McEwen of Cheshire, Connecticut, made her first trip to Gillette for the rally.

"We drove up from Connecticut last night," McEwen said. "We've been in this very spot since 6:15 this morning so we can see our boys — and give them a happy sendoff to the Super Bowl."

Fans got to see Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Devin McCourty and coach Bill Belichick. They took to the stage right outside the Patriots Hall of Fame.

As usual, Belichick was a man of few words.

"Thanks for coming out today. We really appreciate your support," he said. "You guys were great last Sunday, it was awesome. And, uh, for those of you going to Minnesota, we'll see you there. For those of you who aren't, I know you'll be cheering your hearts out back here, and we'll see you Monday."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the crowd. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the crowd. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Of course the biggest round of applause was reserved for Brady, who has been the linchpin of this team dating back to its first Super Bowl victory 16 years ago. Brady told the fans it's been an incredible journey, but they've "got one more to go."

"It's gonna be fun. It's going to be a lot of hard work. We're playing a great team, but I'll tell you what, we got a locker room full of guys who are ready for the challenge," he said. "We're going to go out there and try to win it for you guys. And that's all we got. We love you, Patriots out!"

And as the fans were showered with red, white and blue confetti, the team headed off to board buses to begin their journey to Minneapolis.

The fans are hoping the celebration continues into next week, culminating with another duck boat victory tour through the streets of Boston.

More photos:

Volunteer Marie Luckdale cuts pieces of cake, which was handed out to fans at the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Volunteer Marie Luckdale cuts pieces of cake, which was handed out to fans at the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dan Sancomb of Billerica attempts to get the crowd going. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dan Sancomb of Billerica attempts to get the crowd going. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Jonathan Kraft speaks to the crowd as a select number of Patriots players arrive on the stage during the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Jonathan Kraft speaks to the crowd as a select number of Patriots players arrive on the stage during the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Patriots coach Bill Belichick waves to the crowd during the sendoff rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Patriots coach Bill Belichick waves to the crowd during the sendoff rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Confetti falls around Patriot Place at the conclusion of the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Confetti falls around Patriot Place at the conclusion of the rally. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This article was originally published on January 29, 2018.

This segment aired on January 29, 2018.

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Steve Brown Twitter Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.

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