“Anyone that I try to tackle, I want to hurt you, yes I do, and I’m not going to apologize for that,” former Chargers and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison declares and he means it with every fiber of his being. He meant it during games, he meant it in practice, and he means it, probably, a little bit right now as an analyst on NBC.
Rodney Harrison: A Football Life just aired on the NFL Network and it’s awesome. If you missed it, you can watch it on NFL Game Pass. It will replay at 9:00 PM EST on Wednesday, September 28th on NFL Network. You can watch clips from the show here.
A Football Life goes through the history of a player and tries to explain their ethos and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sums Harrison up perfectly.
“He wasn’t a cheap player, he was just an aggressive player,” Belichick says. “And he was a great player. When they’re on your team, you appreciate it and love their toughness, you love their competitiveness, when they’re on the other team you can be a little bit offended by it.”
Harrison has been working towards greatness since his childhood and it was his experience growing up that stoked the fire in his heart.
“I looked at my mom one day and I said, ‘Mom, I’m gonna get you out of this situation. I’m going to do something great,’” Harrison says about his childhood. “I saw my mom work three jobs, I saw my mom on welfare, I saw my mom struggle when my father didn’t want to be there, I saw people make fun of us, and it brought me to tears because no young person should have to go through that. My mom, she worked hard, she worked so hard to provide for me and my brother and sister, and that’s why I play with so much passion and emotion, because I just got tired of people laughing at us.”
Harrison’s passion got him in trouble as the league transitioned away from the rib-crushing hits of the 70s and 80s, and as his hits- usually rightfully- drew additional scrutiny.
There’s a great story where Harrison was suspended for a game and the Chargers “coincidentally” held a special day to celebrate the #37 jersey, including painting a giant helmet with the #37 on it at midfield. Harrison wore the #37 jersey at the time, but the Chargers issued a statement saying the day was to celebrate Chargers’ color commentator Hank Bauer.
Bauer had 474 career yards from scrimmage over six seasons and was the Chargers special teams coach for four years. He was named to the Chargers 40th and 50th Anniversary Teams as the special teams player.
All the Chargers players knew that a way to tell Rodney they had his back.
It would be like the Patriots painting a giant #12 at midfield for the three home games to start this season and saying that they just wanted to celebrate the fans as the 12th Man. It would have nothing to do with Tom Brady, I promise.
A Football Life actually discusses Brady’s and Harrison’s practice relationship through the eyes of their teammates. Brady is famous for his competitiveness in practice and Harrison was the first player to match and even exceed it.
“Rodney and Tom, going back and forth verbally,” former Patriots WR Troy Brown says, “Just never seen Tom get rattled that bad, not even in games.”
Rodney would get into fights with Brown, Kevin Faulk, and others.
“There was fights, lots of pushing me, and shoving me, and punching me...,” Rodney reflects.
“...and you look over at Bill and he would be over there with a smirk on his face, just loving it,” Troy Brown finishes the story.
“Best practice player probably ever,” Belichick deadpans in a display of fantastic video editing.
The rest of the documentary talks about his relationship with Junior Seau and how Seau’s battle with head injuries has forced Harrison to reflect on his own state. He sits in a dark room at times because he has “episodes” and he’s worried about his future with his kids and wife.
Harrison was a crucial part of the Patriots dynasty and he remains active in football to this day. His next stop is the Patriots Hall of Fame and, hopefully, the NFL Hall of Fame if the voters can get off their high horses and acknowledge a 4-time All Pro, a 2-time Super Bowl Champion, and a player on two 50th Anniversary Teams (Chargers, Patriots).
“Rodney is pretty much the perfect player,” Belichick says. “One of the best players in his era, without question.”
Harrison would certainly have Belichick’s vote.
Take it away, Rodney:
This sums up Rodney Harrison: A Football Life https://t.co/Xwcu4vH8a7— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) September 24, 2016
Rodney Harrison: A Football Life will replay at 9:00 PM EST on Wednesday, September 28th on NFL Network. You can watch clips from the show here.