Given the choice of red or gold, Rodney Harrison will take the blazer that would fit right in at your company Christmas party.
The two-time Super Bowl champion safety was announced as this year's inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame on Monday. Now an NFL analyst and radio host for NBC Sports, Harrison told reporters on a conference call that this latest honor meant more to him than if he was enshrined in Canton.
"I’m very grateful for the fans," Harrison said. "The fact that the fans voted me in, it means more to me than say 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, and see the injuries, and the adversity and the comeback and the plays that were made, and the passion that was shown. They’re not going by reputation or rumors or anything like that, so it really meant a lot to me, the fact that the fans voted me in."
Harrison was one of three finalists to be inducted in 2019. Fans had the opportunity to choose between him, Mike Vrabel or Richard Seymour. Harrison, who will be the 29th person inducted, said he was surprised to be the choice. It was his first year as a finalist, whereas Vrabel and Seymour -- both of whom have three rings as Patriots -- have been finalists in years past.
"It was kind of shocking to me," Harrison said. "I said, ‘OK, the fans get an opportunity to vote now, but you know what, those guys are longer tenured guys. Maybe they vote them in.’ I was thinking more so Richard and I was just saying, you know what, it doesn’t even matter at this point. We won championships together but I’m very happy that the fans, they saw through everything, and they voted me. I’m still kind of shocked because I didn’t expect it. Wow."
Harrison, as Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained, was one of the driving forces of the franchise that was able to pick itself up off the ground following a disappointing 2002 campaign to win Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004.
"His most important contribution," Curran wrote, "was putting the paddles to the chest of the franchise in 2003 when he was signed in the offseason. In July and August of 2003 Harrison was the catalyst for re-infusing the team with the vicious, competitive temperament it had in 2001 but which waned in 2002."
Asked for his proudest moment as a member of the Patriots, Harrison recalled the jolt he provided the team upon his arrival.
"I came in and ruffled a few feathers and that was always a great moment for me because I went into unfamiliar territory," he said. "Denver wanted me and they were offering a lot more money and I just decided once I met with Scott Pioli and Coach [Bill] Belichick, I knew the Patriots were the answer. I knew I did the right thing when I decided to come to New England."
Harrison may not have thought he had a shot at being named a Hall of Famer this year, but it's fitting that he'll be inducted this year after a career spent exceeding expectations.
"I’m just really excited man," he said. "You just have no idea, coming from being a little kid in Markham, Illinois when people your whole life have told you, ‘You can’t, you’re too small, you’re too skinny, you’re not fast enough, you’re not tall enough, you don’t go to Ohio State, you don’t go to Michigan, you go to Western Illinois.’
"I’ve heard that my entire career and to continue to fight and claw, I just want to be able to use my example to young kids and people that struggle with their confidence, to encourage them. You’ve just got to keep working, you’ve got to continue to believe in yourself, continue to fight and claw for everything that you get and you never can become complacent. And that’s the example that I try to set for my kids and kids in the community and that’s important to me, that’s what I stand for."
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