The NFL revealed 28 modern-era finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023 and two all-time great Patriots were included, Rodney Harrison and Vince Wilfork. This is the second time as a semifinalist for both former Patriots defenders, with Harrison's first time coming in 2021 and Wilfork getting the nod last year in his first year of eligibility. Now, both will hope the second time is the charm.
Last year, Richard Seymour was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, joining five other long-time Patriots, Andre Tippett, Nic Buoniconti, John Hannah, Mike Haynes and Ty Law. Seymou and Law were the first two members voted in of the first three Super Bowl-winning squads, while Wilfork and Harrison own four rings among themselves as well.
Bill Belichick has stumped for Harrison in the past, as he was a rare player with over 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, joined only by Ray Lewis in that regard. Harrison's arrival in 2003 re-energized a Patriots team that had won the Super Bowl two years before but missed the playoffs in 2002. Harrison's edgy play brought an infusion of attitude that trickled down through the team and helped spark back-to-back championships.
"I think that Rodney Harrison one hundred percent belongs in the conversation," said Belichick last season after the semifinalists were announced. "I've coached safeties that have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, not taking anything away from them, but certainly Rodney Harrison belongs in that conversation, and he certainly belongs in the conversation with other players that are already there."
Wilfork joined the Patriots Hall of Fame this past year as a defining player who connected the final championship of the first dynasty to the first championship of the second run of titles. A dominant defensive lineman, Wilfork proved to be so much more than just the nose tackle he was drafted to be. 2011's AFC Championship was the standout performance of his career, a game that he admitted was one of his own personal favorites.
"Vince [Wilfork] is a really, very athletic guy." said Belichick this fall prior to his induction into the Hall at Patriot Place. "He can run, very light on his feet. I mean for such a big guy, I think good balance, tremendous playing strength. Great competitor, very smart, good communicator. Was a good team leader. Great team captain. So he brought a lot to this organization on and off the field for a long period of time."
Among the other semifinalists, four spent time in New England as well.
- Henry Ellard - one season with NE, 1998
- James Harrison - one season with NE, 2017
- Darrelle Revis - one season with NE, 2014. Super Bowl 49 champions.
- Fred Taylor - two seasons with NE, 2009-2010
Both Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne also made brief summer training camp appearances in Foxborough but never made it to a regular season game.
The 28 semifinalists will be trimmed to 15 Modern-Era Player Finalists, and then the 49-person selection committee will select the Class of 2023 prior to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. The class will be announced live on the "NFL Honors" telecast scheduled to air at 9 p.m. ET on February 9.