Rodney Harrison's place in the Patriots Hall of Fame is official, and the ceremony kicked off in memorable fashion. Clouds rolled in and the sky opened up sending fans racing for shelter and delaying the start of the ceremony about thirty minutes. The small delay only added to the energy building in the NRG Plaza outside of the Patriots Hall of Fame as fans withstood the storm to be a part of Harrison's moment in the sun.
As skies cleared, dozens of former Patriots including 10 Patriots Hall of Famers, gathered along with thousands of fans for the induction of the 29th member to the Patriots Hall of Fame.
In one of the most significant free agent acquisitions in franchise history, Harrison signed with the Patriots in March of 2003. After spending the first nine years of his career with the San Diego Chargers, Harrison spent the final six seasons of his 15-year NFL career with the Patriots. Patriots' owner Robert Kraft spoke on the lasting memory of Harrison's arrival.
"On March 13th 2003, he arrived at Logan Airport wearing shorts and a t-shirt," Kraft recalled. "It was 35-degrees in Boston that day. Today, 16 years later, I think it's time we finally give Rodney a jacket."
During Harrison's six seasons in New England, he propelled the Patriots to five division titles, three conference championships, and back to back Super Bowl Championships. Harrison had seven interceptions in nine postseason games with the Patriots, including two in Super Bowl XXXIX. He is the only defensive back in NFL history with 30 sacks and 30 interceptions with eight of those picks coming during his Patriots career. However, as Kraft pointed out, when Harrison signed with the Patriots, there wasn't yet a dynasty to join in New England.
"When he signed in 2003, we were coming off a 9-7 season in which we failed to make the playoffs," Kraft said. "I think it's important to note, Rodney didn't choose the Patriots because we were a dynasty, he chose the Patriots to help us become one, and that's exactly what he did," Kraft said.
Kraft even went on to compare the competitive nature of Tom Brady to that of Harrison.
"There was a fire that burned within Rodney, that separated him from most others. Disrespect fueled that fire. That is another trait he shared with or perhaps even imparted on our quarterback," Kraft said. "For as much attention as Tom Brady got for playing the disrespect card during the playoffs last year, Rodney was really the master of the technique."
A compilation video of Brady's and Harrison's remarks about people doubting the Patriots played on the screen in the NRG Plaza, and as fans cheered, Harrison came up to the stage. As he took the mic, he began his acceptance speech by thanking those closest to him.
"You guys see me here with this red jacket, and I think anytime you achieve a level of success, it's not just you, it's so many people that have supported you, encouraged you, brought you on, and I'm very grateful for the people who have supported me," Harrison said.
Harrison's speech singled out members of his family along with his former teammates including current Patriots Hall of Famers Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Faulk, Willie McGinest and Ty Law who were on stage in their red jackets for the ceremony.
Harrison took a moment to recognize the fans for all of the support throughout his career and for making their way to his induction ceremony.
"You guys have been so tremendous. I thank you guys because I look around, and like Mr. Kraft said, there are no better fans. I would not be standing on this stage if you guys didn't take your time and vote for me. I appreciate that."
Along with Harrison's competitiveness and ability to make big plays when it mattered most, he has always been recognized as a leader. In the six seasons he spent in New England, he was voted as a team captain each year. It was a role in which Harrison took great pride.
"What I loved about Coach Belichick, he kept it so real. When I came here, he gave me the freedom to play. Coach gave me the freedom to be me. He didn't restrict me, and I appreciate you coach for that."
As Harrison's extended thanks to those dearest to him, he took time to thank Robert Kraft and the Kraft family for all they did for him during his time in New England.
"Let me tell you something, you are a special man. You really care for your players. You care for their families. You ask questions. I respect you, Mr. Kraft You invite players over to your house. You allowed me and my family to come over there and share some intimate moments with you. I appreciate you, Mr. Kraft. I appreciate everything that you."
As Harrison's speech came to a close, he gave one last thank you to Coach Belichick for giving him the opportunity to play in New England, and Kraft presented Harrison with his red jacket.
Coach Bill Belichick was next to take the stage, and he began by praising Harrison for his speech.
"Have you ever heard a more humble, more passionate thankful speech than that," Belichick asked the crowd. "It was such an honor and privilege to have Rodney Harrison on this team. I wish I would've been smart enough to draft him, but thankfully he signed with us. I'm just so grateful that he played as a part of the New England Patriots."
Before Belichick left the stage he extended congratulatory remarks to Ty Law who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
"Let me say how proud we are speaking for the team and the organization Ty Law getting into the National Football League Hall of Fame. Hopefully through the years, soon, there will be other Patriots in the NFL Hall of Fame. This one, Rodney Harrison, deserves to be there."