Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and left tackle Leon Gray will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in a free outdoor ceremony on July 29, 2019 in the Patriot Place Plaza outside of The Patriots Hall of Fame presented by Raytheon. The public is encouraged to attend.
For six seasons, Rodney Harrison made his mark wreaking havoc in the Patriots secondary while helping guide the Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl titles and a 16-0 regular season. After being voted by Patriots fans as the 29th member of the team’s Hall of Fame, Harrison will take his place among the team’s all-time greats along with former left tackle Leon Gray, who dominated the left side as one of the team’s all-time great offensive lineman.
While Gray was elected by The Hall’s Senior Selection Committee and will be enshrined posthumously, Harrison will return to Foxborough to be inducted in front of the fans that elected him at a free-to-the-public July 29, 2019 ceremony in the Patriot Place Plaza adjacent to the Patriots Hall of Fame presented by Raytheon.
“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.”
Harrison is the seventh player from those 2003-2004 back-to-back championship teams to be selected into the Patriots Hall of Fame, joining Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013), Ty Law (2014), Willie McGinest (2015), Kevin Faulk (2016) and Matt Light (2018).
Harrison played the final six seasons of his 15-year NFL career with the Patriots after spending his first nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers. He played a key role in helping those two Super Bowl titles. Harrison came up big on the biggest stage, with seven interceptions in nine postseason games with the Patriots, including two in Super Bowl XXXIX over the Philadelphia Eagles. His seven postseason interceptions are tied for the third-most in NFL postseason history, and his four picks in the 2004 playoffs are tied for the third-most in a single postseason.
In his first two seasons in New England, Harrison was not only the Patriots leading tackler each year, but he also led all NFL defensive backs in tackles both seasons. He set a career-high with 140 tackles in 2003, followed by a 138-tackle performance in 2004. Additionally, he was the leading tackler in the 2003 and 2004 postseasons, while also recording two sacks, six interceptions, seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles in the six games leading to New England’s back-to-back Super Bowl championships. He is the all-time leader in sacks by a defensive back with 30 1/2, including nine during his time with the Patriots. He is the only defensive back in NFL history with 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, with eight of those picks coming during his Patriots career. Harrison was voted a team captain in each of his six seasons with the Patriots.
Harrison also had a knack for coming up with interceptions at crucial times. In the 2004 regular season and playoffs, five of his six interceptions came inside the opponent’s 20-yard line with four of those picks coming inside the 4-yard line and two of them coming in the end zone. His only 2004 interception that did not come inside the 20-yard line was a fourth-quarter interception in Super Bowl XXXIX that ended Philadelphia’s last drive to clinch the championship.
Gray was a third-round draft pick in 1973 by the Miami Dolphins as an offensive tackle out of Jackson State. He was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. By the 1976 season, he was viewed as arguably the best left tackle in the game. He was a key member of an offensive line that allowed a franchise-low 14 sacks in 1977. Gray teamed with Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah to form what is generally considered one of the best guard/tackle tandems in NFL history. At the end of the 1976 season, Gray was selected to play in the Pro Bowl – the first of two such honors as a Patriot and the first of four trips to the Pro Bowl during his 11-year NFL career.
In 1976, Gray helped power a Patriots rushing game that averaged 210.6 yards per game (which remains a franchise record) and led the Patriots to their first 11-win season in franchise history. In 1978, Gray once again paved the way as the Patriots surpassed their season rushing record with 3,165 yards, an NFL record that still stands 41 years later. Gray was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly and the PFWA. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time. After six seasons with the Patriots, Gray finished his career with Houston (1979-81) and New Orleans (1982-83). Sadly, Gray died in November of 2001 at the age of 49.