When Richard Seymour got the call Monday that he was being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, the longtime defensive lineman said one of the first things that went through his mind was the day he was drafted.
There he was standing alongside New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at his introductory press conference, holding up his new jersey with Gillette Stadium still under construction in the background.
In more ways than one, the foundation for the Patriots future was being laid on that day, and Seymour called it a fitting moment.
"You think about all of the hard work that it took to be drafted, and now to be considered a Patriots Hall of Famer is a tremendous honor," Seymour said.
Seymour becomes the 30th inductee into Patriots Hall of Fame and the seventh to enter the hall as a three-time Super Bowl champion, joining draft-mate Matt Light and other key cogs in the early Patriots dynasty like Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Faulk, Ty Law and Willie McGinest.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder out of Georgia was as responsible for those early championships as anyone else, and you could make a strong argument that his selection at No. 6 overall in 2001 was among the best draft picks Bill Belichick ever made.
Coming off a 5-11 season in his first year with New England, the 2001 draft was an opportunity for Belichick to stock the organization with the kind of talent he'd need to turn the franchise around. Boasting a top 10 pick — one of only two he's ever had in his two decades with the Patriots — Belichick brought in Seymour, a decision that paid immediate dividends and set the stage for the first championship run.
During his eight-year run in New England, Seymour led the Patriots to six division titles, four conference titles and three Super Bowl championships. He was named to five straight Pro Bowls with the Patriots (2002-06) — the most by any Patriots defensive lineman since 1970 — and three straight first team All-Pro honors (2003-05). He was a four-time team captain who recorded 460 tackles, 39 sacks and six fumble recoveries, and during his run the Patriots defense averaged 17.8 points per game.
Seymour's tenure in New England famously came to an abrupt end. After a series of failed contract negotiations, Belichick traded Seymour to the Oakland Raiders in the summer of 2009, where he spent the last four years of his career. Seymour is hardly alone in the pantheon of great Patriots whose careers in New England ended unceremoniously, but given his role in the dynasty and his continuing level of play at that time, it would have been understandable for Seymour to have been hurt by Belichick's decision.
Asked about the trade more than a decade later, Seymour said it wasn't like that. He always understood that the NFL is a business, and in terms of their personal relationship, he always had respect for Belichick.
"At the end of the day, the amount of respect that I have for coach Belichick, and still have to this day, it's a difference between business and your personal life," Seymour said. "And personally it was always a ton of respect.
"Coach Belichick, he would always send a Christmas gift to the kids and little things like that. In terms of the business side of it, that's just the business of the NFL," he continued. "I don't have any hard feelings, that's just the way the NFL works."
With his induction, Seymour beat out former teammate Mike Vrabel and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells for this year's spot in the hall. As a two-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist himself, Seymour said he's hopeful this induction will help earn him a spot in Canton, Ohio in the future.
But for now, one of the most important New England Patriots in history is finally getting his due.
Mac Cerullo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.