Patriots great Richard Seymour thrilled to officially take his spot in ‘football heaven’
Before the ceremony, former teammate Willie McGinest said Richard Seymour earned the nickname, “Hulk” in the locker room because the Patriots defensive end morphed into a different player when he stepped on the field.
On Saturday, Seymour once again morphed into something else.
A Hall of Fame player.
Or, as Seymour said, he now has a place in “football heaven.”
The honor, the immortal status, the bronze bust, the gold jacket was well-earned and well-deserved, as Seymour was officially enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio with the 2022 class.
Seymour gained entry alongside Tony Boselli, the late Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Art McNally, the late Sam Mills, Dick Vermeil and Bryant Young.
He began his speech by recognizing his classmates.
“I’?m overwhelmed today with humility. Not because of what this moment says about me, but what this moment says about we, and what we can do together,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed today with gratitude, because I didn’t get here alone. None of us did. None of us could have. Class of ’22, they say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. I couldn’t be among better company than you. It’s a privilege to have my name bound with yours in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Seymour spoke for nearly 10 minutes, and just as he had forecast in the weeks ahead, his speech revolved around the journey toward this moment, one he called “the greatest of his life.”
He spoke eloquently about his family, his teammates, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the organization, head coach Bill Belichick, as well as late Raiders owner Al Davis. He talked about how each one was an integral part of his Hall of Fame ride.
He started off paying tribute to his wife Tanya, their four children (RJ, Kayla, Kennedy and London) and his parents.
“Football may be what I do,” he said, choking back emotion, “but family is who I am … scripture teaches your riches are in your family … and this day belongs to my family.”
Seymour shared a funny story how his mother drove him to his first football tryout 31 years ago, “and I didn’t even get out of the car.”
Fortunately, the story didn’t end there.
Seymour said his mother believed in him, when he didn’t believe in himself, while his late father taught him the value of hard work and discipline. That combination led to him putting on a gold jacket three decades later.
He said his parents instilled in him the most important thing in life: “As a friend and teammate, as a husband and dad, as a man, it’s to stand for something. To live by your values and to lead by example and most importantly to keep God first.”
That was the perfect segue into the University of Georgia star being drafted as a Patriot as the sixth overall pick in 2001.
Seymour wanted to go someplace warm, but New England eventually won him over thanks, in part, to what the organization stood for.
“When the Patriots selected me sixth overall, it was one of the luckiest breaks of my life,” he said. “For one, I found that my family’s values were at the heart of the Patriots’ values. I was fortunate to join a veteran team, because I had a lot to learn.”
Seymour acknowledged teammates Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Otis Smith, fellow Hall of Famer Ty Law, who was on hand, Mike Vrabel and Anthony Pleasant.
He was grateful that they shared their wisdom and experience as well as the nuances of the game.
“And we had a young quarterback,” Seymour added, playfully referencing Tom Brady, “and we made it work.”
Seymour said the Patriot teams he was on that won three Super Bowls always had an edge, and that edge was their culture.
“We felt a sense of responsibility to each other, a sense of obligation,” he said. “None of us wanted to be the person to let the team down, to let our brothers down, and that defined us. We never cared who got the accolades, as long as we got the ’W.’ ”
Seymour then lauded Kraft as one of the best owners in sports, and stated the case for his former boss, a finalist on next year’s Hall ballot, to gain entry.
“To the entire Kraft family, you showed us being consistent in the little things added up to the big things, always with heart and humanity,” Seymour said, looking at both Robert and Jonathan Kraft, who were in attendance.
Seymour thanked Kraft for being a mentor, and dear friend.
“You, too, will grace this stage,” he said, as Kraft looked on, and acknowledged Seymour’s sentiment.
Next up was Belichick.
Seymour thanked him for being instrumental in getting him to Canton, calling him “the best coach in the game.”
“The lessons I learned from you set me up for success, not just in the game, but in life,” said Seymour. “Work hard, be meticulous in your preparation, support your teammates, respect your opponents, and put the team first.”
Asked not long ago what made Seymour a special player, Belichick responded: “Everything.”
While Seymour’s stats might not have been flashy, anyone who watched Patriots games during his eight years with the team saw a dominant player, one who could be moved anywhere on the line and still make an impact.
Seymour’s final playing days were spent in Oakland, after being traded to the Raiders in 2009.
He said spending his last four years in Oakland under the legendary Davis was “an unexpected gift,” having grown up a Raider fan.
The Hulk, however, is mostly identified as being a Patriot, as he became the 10th player from the franchise, and second from the early 2000s championship teams, along with Law, to gain entry.
“For the last 31 years, football, our game, has afforded me possibilities I never could have imagined,” Seymour said in closing. “And with that privilege comes profound responsibility, the responsibility of stewardship. The responsibility to put others first, to take care of the details, to keep learning, to keep giving, for the long-term strength of our game.”
Seymour chose his high school principal, Titus Duren, to be his Hall of Fame presenter.
“He has overcome obstacles to be a Pro Football Hall of Famer, as well as the person he is,” Duren said prior to meeting Seymour on stage to unveil the bust. “You’ll find no better person in life, than Richard Seymour.”