Rodney Harrison (far right) mingles with fans at Minnesota Historical Center/photo by Neal Justin
Rodney Harrison has been a football analyst for eight seasons, but it's fair to say he's not one of TV's highest profile broadcasters. Maybe he should be.
The former All-Pro safety, in the Twin Cities to work the Cowboys-Vikings game, was at the Minnesota Historical Center Wednesday in conjunction with "Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame," an impressive traveling exhibit that celebrates America's most popular sport. But the 43-year-old veteran, who still looks like he could suit up, didn't exactly serve as the NFL's ideal cheerleader.
In an onstage Q&A with Jill Hornbacher, director of external communications for Comcast's Twin Cities region, Harrison spoke directly and eloquently about the ramifications of playing the sport, referencing the suicide of his long-time mentor Junior Seau who killed himself in 2012 after years of struggling with chronic brain damage.
"If you're not way into it, don't get into it," said Harrison, addressing the young boys squirming in their seats at the front table. "It's not all about dancing in the end zone and the glory. There's pain and long-term effects."
Harrison also didn't sugarcoat the current quality of games, admonishing coaches for spending too much time on razzle-dazzle plays instead of fundamentals.
"You've got a lot of bad football on Sundays," he said.
Harrison may work for NBC as a commentator, but his living depends the success or failure of the NFL, which made his critique somewhat startling -- and completely refreshing.
He wasn't done. When asked to name the greatest quarterback of all time, a true company man would select a current superstar like Tom Brady, especially if he was your QB on the way to two Super Bowl victories. Not Harrison.
"Brady is pretty overrated," said Harrison who spent five years in a Patriots uniform. He then went on to sing the praises Peyton Manning, who retired last season. "I didn't sleep a wink for a week before I played him. Best I ever played against. By far."
Even though he was addressing a partisan crowd, one he mingled with long after his scheduled time, he slammed the Vikings for being too cautious with Sam Bradford and "guaranteeing" that the team would not make this season's Super Bowl.
Despite his skepticism, Harrison did predict the Vikes would pull off an upset Thursday night in what is expected to be one of the most watched TV events of the month.
Harrison's blunt talk and dark sense of humor -- at one point he told Hornbacher that he's so competitive while in the spotlight that he wanted to hit her right now -- may be holding him back from becoming a more prominent TV personality.
But if I had to invest in either the Vikings' short-term prospects or Harrison's long-term possibilities? I'd go with the Patriot.