Although he spent the first and longest portion of his NFL days with the San Diego Chargers, Rodney Harrison resurrected his pro career when the Patriots signed him in 2003.
The no-nonsense safety instantly became one of the leading voices in New England’s locker room that season, and he needed to be after the Patriots severed ties with longtime popular safety Lawyer Milloy at the end of that summer.
Harrison quickly helped quiet critics who questioned why New England would choose Harrison over Milloy. He appeared in every game over the next two seasons, during which he helped the Patriots capture their second and third Super Bowl titles and become more of a household name across the football world in the process.
Serious injuries truncated his next two seasons, but he returned to dominating form in ’07, when he was a pivotal member of that historic squad which went undefeated during the regular season. During that same season, he became the first player in NFL history to reach the dual milestone of registering at least 30 interceptions and 30 sacks over the course of his career (Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis later joined him in the record books).
Before eventually retiring after the ’08 season, Harrison established a Patriots record with seven career postseason interceptions. Even though he earned his two career Pro Bowl honors with San Diego and missed a considerable amount of games with New England due to injury, Harrison perhaps played some of his best football for the Patriots. One might even argue that it was his six high-profile years in New England that landed him his coveted analyst job on NBC’s Football Night in America broadcast.
Numbers and accolades aside, however, when you think about all the success the Patriots had during the first decade of the Super Bowl era, it’s almost impossible not to think of Harrison. That, to me, is the true definition of a Patriots Hall of Famer.
Of course, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour are no less deserving of induction here in Foxborough, which makes this year’s one of the tougher ballots in Patriots Hall of Fame history. Whether or not Harrison gets in this year, he should be fitted for a red blazer sooner or later.
Voting for this year’s Patriots Hall of Fame ends Friday, May 3. Cast your ballot here on patriots.com.