Hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, who spent the final six seasons of a 15-year NFL career in New England, has been voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Harrison topped fellow finalists Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel in fan voting. The trio had been voted finalists by the Patriots Hall of Fame selection committee.
“I’m very grateful to the fans,’’ Harrison said. “The fact that the fans voted me in means more to me than the Pro Football Hall of Fame because the fans got a chance to see me play every week. They got a chance to see the story, see the injuries and the adversity and the comeback and the plays that were made and the passion that was shown.’’
A fiery, intelligent, and instinctive player, Harrison played on back-to-back Super Bowl winners with the Patriots in 2003 and ’04. He is the seventh player from those teams to earn the red jacket, joining Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013), Ty Law (2014), Willie McGinest (2015), Kevin Faulk (2016), and Matt Light (2018).
Harrison was one of the most clutch players of his generation, collecting seven interceptions in nine postseason games with the Patriots, including a pair in the Super Bowl XXXIX win over the Eagles after the 2004 season. His seven career postseason picks are third most in league history.
Harrison is the NFL’s career leader in sacks by a defensive back with 30½, nine of which came during his Patriots time. He is the only defensive back in league annals with 30 sacks and 30 interceptions.
Voted a captain in all six of his seasons in New England, Harrison credited Bill Belichick with taking his game to the highest levels.
“Coach Belichick was really the first coach to utilize me the way I wanted to be utilized,’’ he said. “I played strong safety and free safety in San Diego but he gave me the chance to play linebacker, he put me at nickel back, dime back, I played strong safety, played free, and I also played corner.”
“He wanted me to do more and I wanted to do more. He challenged me. He pushed me to do more and learn more and it was great.’’
Harrison joins Leon Gray, who will be posthumously enshrined after being selected last month by the Hall of Fame’s senior selection committee.
Gray had a dominant six-year run (1973-78) with the Patriots, who claimed him off waivers after the third-round pick was released by the Dolphins before the start of his rookie season.
Along with Pro Football Hall of Fame guard John Hannah, Gray provided excellent protection and dominant run blocking. The duo formed one of the best guard/tackle tandems in the history of the NFL.
Gray was a key cog in an offense that set a franchise record by averaging 210.6 rushing yards per game in 1976. A year later the Patriots allowed just 14 sacks, a franchise low. In 1978, the Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards, an NFL standard that still stands today.
Though he finished his career with the Oilers and Saints, Gray lived in Boston when his playing days ended. He died in 2001 at age 49.