Richard Seymour may take his place in Canton, Ohio, someday, but before he picks out his gold jacket, he’ll make a stop in Foxborough to be fitted for a red one.
Seymour became the 30th member of the Patriots Hall of Fame Monday morning, beating out fellow finalists Bill Parcells and Mike Vrabel in a vote by fans.
The finalists were chosen after a lively debate and discussion last month by the selection committee made up of media and team staff.
Seymour, who has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame the last two years, was one of the dominant defensive linemen of his era. He was New England’s first-round pick in 2001 and played 14 NFL seasons, the first eight for the Patriots.
He said it’s possible that not being in the franchise’s Hall of Fame has been a factor in the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting.
“I think it definitely made it difficult,’’ Seymour said via video conference call. “Because some writers could easily say, ‘Well, we can’t put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, obviously, until he’s in the Patriots Hall of Fame.' But I’m in now, so we’ll just deal with that.’’
Seymour called Vrabel “one of my all-time favorite teammates” while also praising Parcells.
Seymour, after starring in Georgia’s 4-3 defense, made an impact on the Patriots defense as soon as hit the 508 area code, despite having to learn a new position. He recalled being asked by scout Lionel Vital if he thought he could play end in Bill Belichick’s 3-4 defense.
“At that point, I didn’t even know what a 3-4 defensive end was, to be honest, but I was like, ‘Yeah, I could do it,’ ’’ Seymour said with a laugh. “You look back at Coach Belichick and what he’s meant to defenses, and to be drafted by him says a lot.
"I just wanted to come in and absorb as much as I could. I knew I was coming to, at that time, a veteran team. I was in really good hands with Coach Belichick, [defensive coordinator] Romeo Crennel, and all of the coaches there. They really made the transition super easy for me.’’
Seymour’s exquisite combination of size, strength, and speed allowed him to be a force against the run and a consistent presence in the pocket. The 6-foot-6-inch, 317-pounder could ragdoll opponents and often occupied multiple blockers, freeing up his teammates to make plays.
He was a Pro Bowler by his second season, the first of five straight selections, and he anchored a Patriots front seven that helped win three Super Bowls.
“Richard was a rare physical and athletic talent who possesses excellent intelligence,” coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. “He was more than most any offensive player could handle and this enabled us to benefit as a defense in many ways. Richard came into the league as a mature, humble, high character person and quickly became one of the cornerstone players in the early stages of this program. We would not have won three championships in four years without him. I am thrilled he has been recognized as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.”
“Literally from the beginning, he was dominant," former teammate Tedy Bruschi told the Globe in February when asked about Seymour’s Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy. "And believe me, I know this because I had a hands-on view.
“I played behind him, and so I saw those offensive alignments, and just the destruction that he would create. And I would literally be smiling how easy my job was, because of playing behind him.’’
Seymour was traded to the Raiders in 2009 after tough contract negotiations but said he never held any ill will toward Belichick, with whom he is still close.
“Well, Al Davis said he traded for me, so that’s the way I look at it,’’ Seymour said with a chuckle. “At the end of the day, the amount of respect that I had for Coach Belichick and still have to this day, it’s the difference between business and your personal life.
“Personally, it was always a ton of respect. Coach Belichick, he would always send Christmas gifts to the kids and little things like that. In terms of the business side of it, that’s just the business of the NFL. We saw that this year with all of the guys.
"I don’t have any hard feelings or anything like that. That’s just a part of the way the NFL works. It may have seemed like there was some tension or something, but in my mind, it’s no hard feelings."