Earlier today, former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was announced as the team’s 2019 Hall of Fame selection. The 46-year-old, who spent six of his fifteen years in the NFL playing for the team, was the fans’ choice and will therefore receive the famed red jacket this summer alongside the senior committee’s pick, the late Leon Gray.
Like Gray, Harrison was one of the best players his position had to offer during his time in New England. It is therefore not hard to see why he is this year’s Hall of Fame selection.
Harrison was the quintessential Patriot
In the 2015 NFL Films documentary Do Your Job, Patriots staff member Ernie Adams pointed that there was “no such thing as a game-day player” and that practice was the foundation for success in the league. When it comes to Harrison, this certainly rings true: according to head coach Bill Belichick, he was the best practice player he ever coached — one that brought intensity to every session whether it was training camp or preparing for a playoff contest. Harrison did his job year-round.
Harrison was all about winning
After his release from the San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos offered Harrison more money than the Patriots. On top of that, New England also had a pretty good and established strong safety on their roster already in Lawyer Milloy. However, Harrison did not shy away from the competition and ultimately decided to join the team with which he had the best chance of winning the title: he opted to go to New England. A pretty good decision, in hindsight.
Harrison was a key member of two Super Bowl teams
After getting signed as a free agent, Harrison quickly became a core member of the Patriots’ early dynasty squads: between 2003 and 2008, Harrison was a vocal and emotional leader for New England’s defense and a team captain each year. Along the way, he helped the team win Super Bowls 38 and 39 — all while posting terrific numbers: Harrison registered six interceptions and a pair of sacks in the six playoff games leading to New England’s championships number two and three.
Harrison was a tone-setter
On three separate occasions, Harrison was voted as the NFL’s dirties player — but his reputation does not properly reflect what he brought to the Patriots (and the Chargers before them): a perennial underdog, the former fifth-round draft pick set the tone for the entire defense by playing a physical, no-nonsense game. Harrison may have crossed the line numerous times, but he also exemplified the blue-collar attitude of the early-2000s Patriots teams.
Harrison put up great numbers
Harrison’s value to the team goes beyond the statistics, but they certainly cannot be ignored when speaking about his impact: appearing in a combined 72 regular season and playoff games, he registered 514 tackles, 15 interceptions — 7 of which in the postseason — and 11 sacks. Harrison’s versatility and knack for the football made him a difference-maker for the Patriots and undoubtably played a key role in getting him selected into the team’s Hall of Fame.