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Rodney Harrison is a Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist

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New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison (37) celebrates following a play as New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) looks on during the second quarter of the Super Bowl XLII football game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced their 15 finalist for the Class of 2024 on Wednesday. Included among the group is a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. Safety Rodney Harrison made the cut. It is Harrison’s first time being included among the finalists.

Despite winning three Super Bowls in four seasons from 2001-to-2004, that edition of the Patriots has only had two members inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame to date. Cornerback Ty Law was a member of the Class of 2019. Three years later, Law was joined by defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

There will be at least four inductees from that run in coming years. Owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, and placekicker Adam Vinatieri will all be heading to Canton before long. However, even at six that run of greatness leaves New England under-represented compared to their elite peers from previous decades.

The 10 finalist were selected from the 25 semifinalists announced last month. That group from 173 nominees named in September. That initial list included 22 former New England players. Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Vince Wilfork was among the 10 semifinalists not included among the finalists.

Rodney Harrison

Harrison began his career in San Diego. He was a a fifth round pick of the Chargers in 1994 after playing college football for Western Illinois. By 1996 he was a full-time starter, and in 1998 he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. That year, Harrison was also named an All-Pro. After his first nine seasons with San Diego, Harrison joined the New England Patriots prior to the 2003 season.

Rodney Harrison would play his final six seasons in Foxboro. He helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons in New England. During those championship runs, Harrison had six interceptions in six playoff games. He proved to play his best when it mattered most. He was also the starting safety on the 2007 Patriots, the first NFL team to finish with a 16-0 regular season record.

Along with Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, Rodney Harrison is one of only two players to record at least 30 sacks and 30 interceptions during their NFL careers.

New England Patriots' Rodney Harrison returns an interception 87 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005, in Pittsburgh. He is one of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

New England Patriots’ Rodney Harrison returns an interception 87 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Reputation

Despite being a two-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Harrison’s individual accolades are not as impressive as they should be. Voting for awards can be a popularity contest. Harrison’s reputation for being a dirty player did not make him popular.

In 2004 Harrison finished fourth in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, was named first team All-Pro, yet was not voted to the Pro Bowl. In fact, 2001 would be the last year Harrison’s peers voted him to the Pro Bowl. He was voted “dirtiest player” in player surveys in both 2004 and 2006. In 2008 an ESPN survey of coaches again identified Harrison as the NFL’s “dirtiest player.” This  reputation obviously affected his ability to garner awards.

Why Isn’t Harrison Already In?

A reputation for dirty play wasn’t the only thing holding back Harrison’s candidacy. The prime of his career was divided up between two decades, the 1990’s and 2000’s. When players get voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “All Decade” honors are always mentioned. Although the timing of his career prevented him from adding that honor to his resume, the prime of his career was the best of any safety in the NFL. From 1995-to-2004, Harrison was one of only seven NFL players with over 1,000 tackles, and the only non-linebacker among that group. He also led all NFL safeties during that 10-year span in both tackles for loss (36) and sacks (27.5) sacks. His sack total with 9.0 more than any other safety during that stretch.

Rodney Harrison was first eligible to be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014, but was not even named a semifinalist for another seven years. Since 2014, peers to be elected who played safety include Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed, Steve Atwater, Troy Polamalu, John Lynch, and LeRoy Butler. Dallas Cowboys safety Darren Woodson joins Harrison among this year’s semifinalists.

Other Finalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024

Along with Rodney Harrison, there is another player with New England Patriots ties among this group of 15. Running back Fred Taylor finished their career in New England. However, he is better known for his years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tight end Antonio Gates and defensive end Julius Peppers are the only first-year eligible candidates that made the cut.

The complete list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024

Running Backs (1): Fred Taylor

Wide Receivers (3): Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne

Tight Ends (1): Antonio Gates

Offensive Linemen (2): Will Anderson, Jahri Evans

Defensive Ends (3): Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers

Linebackers (1): Patrick Willis

Cornerbacks (1): Eric Allen

Safety (2): Rodney Harrison, Darren Woodson

Return Specialist (1): Devin Hester

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