The folks in Canton, Ohio, made it official on Saturday afternoon, inducting Richard Seymour — the sixth New England Patriot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Talk about an honor that is well-deserved for the three-time Super Bowl champ, seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.
Hate to invoke cliché here. Often times in this situation, the words become gratuitous. But I have to. Seymour is a Hall of Fame human being first and foremost.
Yes, football helped bring him here. The fact that he could take the 300-pound monster lined up in his face and toss him around like my old-school GI Joe action figures made a nice life for the University of Georgia product. But it’s what he did with this life — fine man, outstanding family man, one of the game’s true nice guys with a solid head on his shoulders — that makes Seymour most special.
Just a little background here, before I give you three of my favorite Seymour stories to get you to understand why, as a human being, he should be held in the highest esteem. His draft in 2001 was my first as a reporter on the Patriots beat. So we kind of came in together.
Watching him early in that Bryan College (now University, I know) training camp, it was evident that Bill Belichick had expended the No. 6 pick overall on a truly special talent.
What Seymour did to the likes of Adrian Klemm and Greg Robinson-Randall in that camp was borderline criminal.
I knew from that camp on, that if I was going to attach myself to a Patriots in 2001, it would be Seymour.
Sorry to digress.
I have three Seymour tales to tell — tales I tell regularly — that I hope will go a long way in your appreciation of this Patriots legend.
THE ‘INTERNETS’ STORY
In 2001, the World Wide Web was a pretty new thing. Googling and searches were just coming into vogue.
So for my first feature on Seymour, I did a “Google” search to try to find an angle. Didn’t come up with much, but I did find a pair of freshman English papers that he wrote at Georgia — one on race and another on women’s rights. To be honest, they weren’t much of a read, typical English Comp 101 fodder, but talk about an ice-breaker.
So one Wednesday at the old Foxborough Stadium, I asked Seymour about the class — and those two papers. He was befuddled. Heck, maybe he was a little nervous about what years later would come to be known as cyber-stalking.
Seymour was an unassuming lug of a kid from a tough upbringing in South Carolina, a bit rough around the edges for sure.
“Where did you find that stuff?” he asked me. I said, “The Internet, of course.”
Seymour laughed and uttered words I will never, ever forget: “They gotta do something about those damn Internets.”
We both laughed it off.
Do me a favor today, folks. Find some video of Seymour’s HOF speech or any recent interview.
Richard Seymour went from that confused kid to one of the most polished human beings you will ever find in sports — anywhere.
Talk about a man with drive to learn and better himself.
That’s something special — something I will always remember fondly.
GIANT WITH A HUGE HEART
The NFL has had plenty of initiatives for its players to give back over the years. One of them for decades was the drink milk and eat healthy campaign, geared to children in the inner city.
So one weekday, must have been a Tuesday, on his day off, Seymour headed into Boston, to talk to the grade-schoolers about nutrition.
The biggest man in the room had the biggest heart. He was just eating the kids up and they were enthralled, except for the part where he told them to go with apple slices instead of fries in their Happy Meal.
I had plenty of reason to complain that day — long drive in traffic, finding parking in the city, etc. Seymour, even in his early 20s, was a breath of fresh air. Character matters, and you could see almost immediately that he oozed it.
THE TALE OF ANGRY TED
So, now we jump ahead two years to the 2003 season, Seymour’s third in what was by that time known as Patriot Place.
The Patriots signed a mountain of a man that offseason in veteran free agent Ted Washington.
In his dozen or so seasons, Washington was notorious for three things — his mammoth size at 6-foot-5, 365 pounds; his propensity to dominate games from his nose guard position; and his hatred of the media.
Ted never talked. Never.
I decided on one of those slow Wednesdays I was going to change all that.
Washington popped over to his locker, and I was going to be gregarious and engage.
“So Ted, I’m not looking to talk football. I’m just wondering what a guy like you has for favorite foods. Can we talk?”
“No, seriously, what does it take to feed a guy your size?”
The silence morphed into a loud, steady, angry grunt.
“Come on, Ted. We’re both big guys who like to eat. Let’s talk food.”
At that point, Seymour in the next locker — Washington wore 92, Seymour 93 — gets up off his chair, puts his hand on my shoulder and warns, “I think you’d better get out of here … now.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I didn’t run. I galloped away. It says here that Richard Seymour kept me out of the hospital or worse that day. He probably saved Big Ted from an assault charge and kept both of us off of SportsCenter that night.
He didn’t have to do that. He could have let me get splattered all over that place.
So, for that we can all be thankful.
Follow Hector Longo on Twitter: @mvcreature