- Greg Garber, Writer, Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Corey Dillon wearily took the big step up and settled down into the blue director's chair at Podium No. 5.
"Made it," he said, sighing -- more for pleasure than effect.
Yes, he did.
The Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four seasons -- a queasy 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in XXXIX -- but this was the first for Dillon after seven discouraging years in Cincinnati. Based on his numbers there and the newest fashion accessory he has coming -- think bling, think ring -- his final destination may well be Canton, Ohio.
Dillon, his big left hand curled around the waist of his young daughter, Cameron, seemed more relieved than ecstatic.
"This is what I came for," he said.
Dillon carried the ball 18 times for 75 yards (including a 2-yard touchdown) and caught three passes for another 31 yards. And while he was overshadowed by Deion Branch's MVP performance of 11 catches for 133 yards, Dillon touched the ball 10 more times and helped grind the clock down when the game got tight.
When he was asked if the Patriots could be considered a dynasty, Dillon passed.
"This is my first Super Bowl," he said. "A lot of guys here have won two or three. I'm not entitled to speak on that. On the outside looking in? This is a great football team."
Life doesn't always go the way we plan it, but this is, more or less, how Dillon saw his season ending when he was acquired by the Patriots in the offseason for a second-round draft choice. He had run for over 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons, but his public unhappiness at playing for the Bengals -- where their best record was 8-8 during his tenure -- and an injury, resulted in a dislocated 541-yard effort in 2003.
This year's total of 1,635 yards vindicated Dillon and underlined the Patriots' ability to convince their players to play as a team. That Dillon won 15 of 17 games this season makes him ... a winner.
After the game, Phladelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was asked the (painfully) obvious question. Does Corey Dillon make the Patriots a different team?
"Yeah," Johnson said, without enthusiasm. "Especially toward the end when they felt like they wanted to run the ball."
It was written that Dillon was a selfish player, a bad teammate who didn't care about winning. Maybe winning was all he cared about. It is a measure of the man that his new teammates seemed to be happier for him than themselves.
"Me and Corey have been in meeting rooms all year," said Kevin Faulk, Dillon's backup. "This is the happiest moment of his life. I'm happy for him. I'm so proud of him."
"A lot of people counted me out," Dillon said. "They said a lot of negative things. It's a great feeling."
"Well," he said. "I thought I would cry. I didn't know how I was supposed to act.
"It's been a long, long, long time since I felt like this. Going back to Pop Warner and high school and college and the pros -- I never won the big one."
Not until now.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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