Rodney Harrison made his presence felt on the New England Patriots in just his second day of training camp in 2003.
Anyone who knows the easy-going Troy Brown can attest to how uncommon a display of emotion that was for him. And anyone who has watched Rodney Harrison play a down of football can attest to how common a hit like that was for him.
Harrison had that effect on players throughout his career.
"We knew what he was about," said Patriot cornerback Ty Law of the incident, "but after that, we really knew what he was about."
With Harrison's retirement from the NFL on Wednesday, he leaves behind a legacy of hard, and sometimes just a wee bit late, hits and clutch plays on the biggest stages.
While Harrison only played six seasons for New England, it was there that he cemented his place in NFL history with a pair of Super Bowl rings.
Despite being the only player ever to record 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, he is by no means a lock for the Hall of Fame. Especially if you factor in the slew of fines he received over the course of his career, along with the suspension for four games in 2007 for using HGH.
But what cannot be argued is his place near the top of the list of Patriot and NFL greats.
Every time Harrison finished a season healthy with the Pats they were playing in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that has only happened once since their last Super Bowl title in 2004.
In 2005, Harrison was lost for the season when he tore multiple knee ligaments against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Three.
In 2006, Harrison was first lost against the Colts after breaking his right shoulder blade. He returned in Week 15, only to injure his knee in the season finale against Tennessee thanks to a low hit from Bobby Wade.
In 2008, Rodney was lost in Week Seven against the Denver Broncos after tearing his right quad, in what would be his last football game. His final wave to the crowd as he was driven off the field on the back of a cart was an unfitting end for such a spectacular player.
It's no secret why the Patriots were so successful in the playoffs when Hot Rod was healthy.
In nine playoff games with the Patriots, Harrison recorded a Patriots record seven interceptions (one for a TD against Pittsburgh in the 2004 AFC Championship), two forced fumbles, two sacks, and led the team in tackles three times.
That kind of game production is not easily replaced. Nor is the intensity and leadership that Harrison brought to every practice and meeting he ever attended.
Perhaps that was where Rodney Harrison's greatest contribution to the Patriots came, which is saying a lot when you look at the numbers he put up. Bill Belichick's comments upon Rodney's retirement sum up how much he meant to the franchise both on and off the field.
He, along with current players like Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi, and past players like Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest, are the ones who established the culture of hard work and dedication inside the New England locker room.
Harrison has always had his critics, those who called him the "dirtiest player in the NFL," but he's a player that everyone would want on their team. You knew when you were playing against Rodney Harrison; he made sure of that.
He played the game with as much passion and intensity as the game has ever seen, and will be missed not only by Patriots fans, but by football fans everywhere who loved to hate him.
Mike Dussault is a Patriots Community Leader and ready for the 2009 season to start asap. He can be reached at PatriotsPropaganda@gmail.com.
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