The New England Sports Museum holds an annual event called The Tradition in which it honors past greats in local sports with a lifetime achievement award. Among those honored last week was former Pats safety Rodney Harrison, who was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and played on two Super Bowl championship teams with the Patriots. Here are a few of the comments that Rodney made at the event.
Note: to see and hear some of Rodney’s comments for yourself, be sure to check out this video clip from the Patriots website: Patriots Today: Harrison’s legacy shines in NE.
On former teammate Junior Seau: “Junior Seau is directly responsible for me having the career that I had. As a rookie, I looked at Junior Seau every day at practice and I said, ‘Junior, why do you practice so hard?’ He’s running around, a muscular guy, and he said, ‘Rodney, I get paid to practice. I’d play the games for free. It’s easy to go in front of 60 to 70,000 people and play. You don’t need motivation for that.’ But to come in and practice every single day and practice like it’s a game, that’s what Junior Seau taught me. I implemented that in my program and I did that over the course of my career. When I retired, the biggest compliment I got was when Bill Belichick said, ‘Rodney was the best practice player I had in 31 years.’ That’s what it’s about, because that sets the tone. I don’t care if it’s business or sports, when you come with that positive type of attitude, you come with that type of energy, it’s electric. People catch on. People want what you have. You don’t have to be a great athlete. But if you have your heart, the will to win; dude, you can accomplish anything you want. I was a decent athlete; I wasn’t great – but I had the will.”
On public expectations: I think the main thing a lot of fans don’t understand is the type of pressure and anxiety that we as players, owners, general managers, that we carry each and every day. You’re always trying to live up to a standard. You’re always trying to be that perfect person, that perfect athlete. You always know your job is on the line and you’re trying to feed your family, and you know they’re going to try to bring someone younger in and get cheaper talent to replace you. So we carry such a great amount of anxiety. When I retired from football, when I got my last injury and got carted off the field, it was almost like relief, because my wife had told me that year is that the only way you’re going to retire is if they carry you off the field. When that happened, I just waved to the fans and was just like relieved. I was like, ‘You know, it’s over. I can walk away.’ I was happy, and I’m happy now; with the NBC job or without it. I’m at peace with what I’ve done, because I know I’ve impacted peoples’ lives, I know I worked my ass off, and I know that I have so much to offer each and every day. I coach little league baseball, t-ball, basketball, and I’m enjoying my family. I’m a committed, dedicated husband and a father. That’s what drives me.”
“Boston fans are hard to please. To be recognized by them is a honor.” Boston ticked him off when Patriots fans booed when they were up by three touchdowns at halftime: “you guys are spoiled.”
On the Pats chances in 2013: “I think they’ve addressed some needs across the board. I think with Tom Brady really being that centerpiece you can build your team around and coach Belichick. Obviously with the great teaching that he and his staff does, I think they’ll be fine. I think they’re in tune to go back, as long as they don’t allow complacency to kick in. They have a lot of room on the defensive side where they can come out and get better. They need to get better defensively, especially in the defensive backfield. Guys need to step up: Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty; they need to step up. It’s time for them not to think that they’re young players. They need to make plays, and there’s no reason this team should be ranked 32nd in the league defensively.
I think as a young player, you have to focus on being consistent each and every day. I’m not saying that they’re not, but being a pro, doing things right all the time and learning from last year. You have to get better. And I think as they get better, other people look around and say, ‘These guys are really the leaders in the secondary,’ and they’ll catch on. When you’re doing things right, when you’re playing fast – when you’re doing things right all the time – people want to be a part of that. And then, you start having success and you go out there and you really set the tone. When I played, I really wanted to go out there and hit somebody in the mouth. Set the tone. And I figured that everyone else would join, and that’s what happened.”
On Bill Belichick: “When I was a free agent and I was basically talking to the Oakland Raiders. Bill Belichick called and I hopped on the first thing smoking. I ended up coming out to New England, and I said, ‘Coach, do you want me to work out? I didn’t really get any sleep on the plane, it was a red-eye.’ He said he didn’t need me to work out, which I thought was kind of weird. ‘You’re going to pay me millions of dollars and not have me work out? Okay.’ He started naming plays. He started naming plays like ‘okay I remember this play I remember that play’ but I was like, ‘coach, that happened four or five years ago’, but he remembered that. And after that Denver called me and they offered more money, and I said, ‘you know what, this is the right place for me. This man knows football, he knows exactly what he wants, and he has a vision.’ So I believed that in vision and the best thing I did was come here and play football.”
On his own accomplishments: “All I can say right now is wow, you look around and you see thousands of people out on this Garden floor, just the fans have embraced me. When I first came here in 2003 the fans were tremendous to me and I thank Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick for giving me this opportunity.
I would say it’s more special now that I’m away and I get a chance to really sit back and think about what we accomplished. To be able to come together with so many different individuals, so many different personalities, and really have one common bond and one common goal, I think that was so special. Bill Belichick was the perfect catalyst to really bring all our different personalities together. To have grown men set their egos aside and say ‘We’re trying to win football games.’ We didn’t care if Tom got the big contract, if he got all the write-ups in the newspaper; we just wanted to win football games.”
On the first thing he thinks of looking back: Teammates. I think about my teammates. I think about Tom and Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi and all the great teammates that I had, and all the sacrifices, the hard work that we put in. I think about Belichick yelling and screaming at us, and really teaching us about football. Teaching us about loyalty and about teamwork, and that’s what it’s truly about.
On how close he is to his former teammates: My friends that I have established a friendship with over the years I’m still close with. Obviously Belichick and Mr. Kraft, they’re going to be lifelong friends, as well as Tom and some of the other guys who I played with.
On the possibility of being named to the Patriots Hall of Fame: I don’t, I don’t think about the Hall of Fame or anything like that. I mean to me, to be honest with you when I got the phone call, the e-mail for this; I thought it was a joke. Like okay, right; I’m on the stage with Pedro Martinez the great, Robert Parish and those guys. So for me it’s not about that, it’s about just team, and my teammates; all the relationships I’ve established. Whatever happens in the future happens.
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