On Tuesday, the New England Patriots Hall of Fame presented by Raytheon announced its three finalists to become its 2019 inductee. Safety Rodney Harrison, defensive lineman Richard Seymour and linebacker Mike Vrabel were chosen by the selection committee, which met on earlier this month on April 4. All three players were teammates on Patriots teams which earned multiple Super Bowl championships in the early 2000s. The selected inductee will join former Pats offensive tackle Leon Gray (who was granted enshrinement by the selection committee) in 2019.
Richard Seymour is deservingly regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the New England Patriots. During his career,he was also considered one of, if not the best, defensive lineman in the NFL. “Big Sey” played college football for the University of Georgia, where he earned first-team All American honors in 2000, and was named to the All-SEC First Team in 1999 and 2000. He was drafted sixth overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Some consider Seymour to be among the best players in NFL history to be chosen as the sixth overall pick.
Throughout his Patriots tenure, Seymour was named to five All-Pro teams, and was a member of three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX.) He was selected to seven Pro Bowls, gaining selections as both a 4-3 defensive tackle and as a 3-4 defensive end. On occasion, Seymour even played fullback on short yardage and goal line situations. His contributions to the Patriots earned him spots on both the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team and the New England Patriots All-2000s Team. Seymour finished his career as a member of the Oakland Raiders, where he earned two additional Pro-Bowl selections. He retired in 2013, having amassed amazing career totals of 496 tackles, 57.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. Seymour has long been considered a strong candidate for enshrinement not only to the Patriots Hall, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Throughout his NFL career, Rodney Harrison was one of the most fearsome strong safeties in the NFL. After spending the first nine of his 15 NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Harrison joined the Patriots in 2003. He was a key component in a Pats defense that won back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004 (XXXVIII, XXXIX). Perhaps his most memorable moment as a Patriot was his game-sealing interception in Super Bowl XXXIX that ended the last drive of the Philadelphia Eagles. Harrison’s leadership abilities were evident in his being selected as a team captain in each of his six seasons with the Pats.
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Throughout his career, Harrison was a two-time Pro-Bowler and a two-time First team All Pro. He holds the distinction of being the first player in NFL history to score touchdowns on an interception return, fumble return and kickoff return in same season (which he accomplished in 1997 as a member of the Chargers.) As a Patriot, Harrison shined his brightest in the postseason In the 2004-2005 NFL Playoffs, he had four interceptions in three games. His seven playoff interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) are a Patriots team record.
On October 21, 2007, Harrison became the initial member of the 30/30 Club of players with both 30 interceptions and 30 sacks (a distinction held only by he and NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis). He finished his career in 2009 with 1,205 tackles, 34 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Harrison has the most sacks (30.5) of any defensive back in NFL history. Upon his retirement, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called Harrison “one of the best players” he has ever coached.
Mike Vrabel joined the Patriots as a free-agent in 2001. His signing remains one of the greatest in team history. Throughout his time in New England, Vrabel defined the word ‘versatility.’ He primarily started at both inside and outside linebacker. However, he often lined up on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations. As a Patriot, he caught eight regular-season passes and two more in the playoffs. All 10 of his receptions were for touchdowns, including touchdown receptions in back-to-back Super Bowl wins over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXVIII and Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX (cred. Patriots.com). Vrabel routinely made his presence felt by making valuable contributions on various special teams units.
Although he finished his playing career as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Vrabel will forever be remembered as a Patriot. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), as well as a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro in 2007. He was selected as a member of the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, as well as the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team (2000–2009). He registered 48 sacks as a Patriot, which is the seventh-most in franchise history.
The Patriots allow their fans to make the final selection for enshrinement into its Hall of Fame, via online fan voting. Fans are encouraged to vote at Patriots.com/hof through May 3. The team will announce the 2019 Patriots Hall of Fame selection the following week.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC