When Steve Belichick first got to know Rodney Harrison he did so as a Patriots bystander and high school student, albeit one with unique access to the team.
He was more than a decade from becoming the safeties coach on his father's coaching staff in New England, but didn't need the validation of sideline experience or a job title to know he was witnessing greatness when the All-Pro safety came east from San Diego to solidify the Patriots Super Bowl-bound secondary in 2003.
Harrison was elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame earlier this month by a fan vote, beating out fellow finalists and key Super Bowl-winning New England defensive cogs in Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.
Belichick certainly supports Harrison's spot among the greatest Patriots of all time, actually placing the current NBC analyst on an even higher personal pedestal.
"I watched him with my rookie, Malik [Gant, undrafted defensive back out of Marshall], this morning," Belichick said recently during a meeting with the local media. "Rodney Harrison is my favorite football player. I looked up to him for…I still look up to him. He had such a tremendous outlook on the game. He played so hard. When we signed him when I was in high school, I've idolized him ever since. I still talk to him to this day. Being a coach's kid, when you're that young, people kind of treat you differently. But Rodney really humbled me and forced me to learn it the hard way, which I still appreciate to this day. I can't say enough good things about Rodney. He's my favorite football player."
Harrison will officially be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in a ceremony in the plaza just outside Gillette Stadium on July 29.
It certainly sounds like Steve Belichick could be one of the many passionate Harrison fans that will be in attendance.