It’s Fame Week for some key former Patriots
Start bellowing the Irene Cara tune from the old 1980s television show. It’s Fame Week for the New England Patriots.
Monday, in the sweltering heat at Patriots Place – it’s always this way for this ceremony, isn’t it – late Patriots offensive lineman Leon Gray and current NBC Sunday Night Football star and former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison were inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
And this weekend in Canton, Ohio,, former Patriots defensive back Ty Law gets his just due in enterting the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Red and Yellow Jackets.
As usual, the plaza outside was packed. People love to see Patriots past and present, and the team’s practice Monday night was inside Gillette Stadium, the annual season ticket holders only affair.
But we continue to honor the Patriots past. Gray is from the distant past; he formed a dynamic offensive line duo with John Hannah when the Patiots first became an NFL playoff team in 1976 and beyond. Of course, the two were also famous for their big holdout in 1977. But Grey was superb, and when the Patriots finally traded him to the Houston Oilers in 1979 as what was viewed as a cost saving move,, Hannah, always outspoken, declared “We just traded away our Super Bowl.”
But some 23 years later, the Patriots signed themselves their next couple of Super Bowls when they scooped up Harrison, who had been a San Diego Chargers salaray cap casualty.
Harrison, who back then passed on a more lucrative offer from Denver, the other day credited Patriots coach Bill Belichick in believing he still had something left – actually more than just “something.”. And Harrison certainly did. Of course, his signing eventually opened the door for what was then a hugely controversial move, the release of popular fellow safety Lawyer Milloy.
“That was one of the things that really stuck out to me that Coach Belichick wasn’t about favoritism or anything like that,” Harrison said back in May after it was announced he was the fans choice for the Hall at Patriots Place. “He was about you coming in, doing what you have to do, being a pro and earning your keep and that’s what I loved about him. “He opened up, he gave me an opportunity and he didn’t have any preconceived notions of me. He gave me an opportunity and that’s all I ever wanted.”
He made the most of that opportunity, the same as he did after he retired in 2008 (after an injury) and became a commentator for NBC Sports and Sunday Night Football.
The media loved Harrison when he was a Patriot. He was usually at the edge locker before a turn in the room, and that gave a lot of room. Harrison never held back, but his best stuff was talking non-football – food, movies, etc., whatever you wanted – in a very relaxed manner toward the end of the media sessions after a lot of the cameras and microphones had left. The guy was simply super to talk to. If you were a media member, Harrison’s locker was a must-visit – just like his comments are must-see TV. He pulls no punches, unlike some former players who are afraid of criticizing
Of course, he was a great player as well, far from finished after leaving San Diego, where he was one of the franchise’s faces for some nine years. But Harrison reinvented himself as a Patriot, saving some of his best performances for when it counted – the postseason.
He arguably could have been named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX when he had seven tackles, a sack and two interceptions of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. He had a couple of great AFC title games, and after one of them Belichick reportedly said to his safety, “Am I glad we got you!”
Meanwhile, this weekend it’s Ty Law’s turn on the national stage. Harrison was talking last week about how more Patriots from the Tom Brady/Belichick era should be joining Law in entering Canton – players like Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest,etc. But that was the theme of the Patriots defense back then – no one player was bigger than the rest in what Harrison has called “the greatest dynasty of all-time.” But Harrison did call Law “the best cornerback I’ve ever played with.”
The guess here is Seymour gets the nod next year. He may even make it into Canton. We’ve said time and time again that Bill Parcells should be in the Patriots Hall of Fame because he turned the franchise around, but the feeling about his acrimonious departure to the Jets in 1997 probably won’t go away.
But Harrison, despite a four-game HGH suspension in 2007, has always been a fan favorite.
“It’s been an experience,”Harrison said a few months ago of his Patriots career. ” It’s almost like I just can’t explain it. It’s been so surreal and I’m just very grateful for all of the people that have helped me throughout my journey.”
Ty Law, you’re up next, and your journey goes all the way to a fitting end in Ohio. But that stop in the plaza off Route 1 is certainly always a memorable one.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK, or firstname.lastname@example.org