Initial Titles with Patriots Lead Seymour to Hall of Fame

Hall Of Fame Seymour Football (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Richard Seymour was winning Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before, as he said, Tom Brady was Tom Brady.

The defensive lineman’s early success – three championships in his first four seasons – is as good a starting point as any for how Seymour ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“We had a saying with the Patriots that statistics can be for losers,” Seymour said. “I was asked to do selfless things.”

Seymour had 57 1/2 career sacks in 12 seasons, his top eight in New England before ending his career with the Oakland Raiders.

His three All-Pro seasons were two more than each of the other two Hall of Famers categorized as defensive ends and tackles — Chicago’s Dan Hampton and San Francisco’s Bryant Young.

The Patriots did indeed win with defense when Seymour was a rookie in 2001, the year Brady became a starter. New England became a top 10 defense that year, then held the “Biggest Show on Turf” with no touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl before winning the St. Louis Rams 20-17 on Adam Vinatieri’s field goal.

New England missed the playoffs in 2002 before winning the next two Super Bowls, over Carolina and Philadelphia. Dallas is the only other franchise to win three Super Bowls in four seasons (1992-95).

Seymour, who is due to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, is the second player outside New England defenses to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after cornerback Ty Law.

Those three titles went to Seymour, Law and the rest of that group of New England defenders, while Brady, 44, is seven and possibly counting, the most recent with Tampa Bay. But Seymour and company get credit for their part in the foundation.

“Those first three Super Bowls were all defense-led teams,” Seymour said. “I think for us, the change really started happening right after that. And that’s when Brady really became Brady. And then he really took off. Offense sells, so I totally understand. But those early teams were led by the defense.”

The sixth overall pick outside Georgia in 2001 after growing up in South Carolina, Seymour played both inside and out for the Patriots before spending most of his time at defensive tackle with the Raiders.

Listed at over £300 in his playing days, Seymour fit more into the mold of a run stopper than a pass rusher. The only mold he cared about was winning.

“I think my story is an impact story because it was selfless and it was about the team and being a competitor,” Seymour said. “The bigger picture for me is as long as the team values ​​what I was bringing to the table and they showed that in terms of my contracts and that sort of thing. I knew they valued me, and they told me they valued me.”

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, another anchor in those defenses as a linebacker, saw the value when he joined the Patriots as a free agent the same year Seymour was drafted.

“I was in my fifth year, but I really, man, hadn’t done much in the league. So we were starting in the NFL for the first time,” Vrabel said. “I just remember, just its size, its length, its power. This was a smart player who could recognize things, he would say, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ I said, ‘OK, yeah, that’s a great idea.’”

So smart you could skip your homework? Seymour thought so when he was a rookie and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel gave all first year players something to study overnight.

Seymour ignored similar assignments in Georgia and figured he could do the same in the pros. Until Crennel called him the next day.

“He ripped me a new one that day in front of all the other rookies,” Seymour said. “And I was the first round guy. So I think with him taking me out ahead of all the other draft picks, it really set the tone for everyone in terms of expectations. I kind of realized that, ‘OK, I guess I have to study when I get to the league.’”

The misstep didn’t slow Seymour’s path to becoming an early leader in New England’s two-decade dynasty. He failed to bring the same success to the Raiders after a 2009 trade, but the legacy was enough for a Canton call.

“He brought an attitude. He brought an attitude,” Vrabel said. “He continued to push the guys, even as a young man he pushed the guys. He had enough skill and confidence to push guys who were maybe in sixth or seventh grade and he was maybe in second or third year.”

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AP professional football writer Teresa M. Walker contributed.

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