To former Georgia All-American and New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Richard Seymour, Jim Donnan is still known as “Coach.”
As Georgia’s head football coach from 1996-2000, Donnan led the Bulldogs to a then-unprecedented four consecutive bowl game wins. Seymour competed in each one.
On May 11, more than eight years removed from his 12-season career in the NFL, Seymour was honored as the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Seymour said in a May 11 press conference held via Zoom. “It wasn’t anything that I ever thought about in terms of why I played. I just wanted to go out and compete.”
The three-time Super Bowl champion was nominated by a selection committee alongside former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel and former head coach Bill Parcells. The final decision was left to the New England faithful, who chose Seymour.
On the day of the hall of fame announcement, Donnan was sure to text his former defensive tackle.
“It makes you feel good to know that these guys still contact you and talk to you,” Donnan said. “It’s nice to know you’ve been involved with so many good players.”
Seymour, whom Donnan steered away from South Carolina and Clemson out of high school, went on to record 233 tackles and 23 sacks in 41 games for Georgia.
“He was just a very big, strong athletic kid who was very young when he actually came here,” Donnan said. “He played a lot the first two years, but really came into his own the last two.”
As a 17-year-old freshman in 1997, Seymour saw playing time on a Georgia defense heavy with future NFL talent. His 74 tackles in 1999 led the defense, and he achieved All-America status in 2000.
Although Donnan said there’s no such thing as a “pure, can’t miss” prospect due to the uncertainties of the NFL, he said Seymour’s athleticism on the inside and outside of the defensive line impressed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“[Belichick] doesn’t miss anything,” Donnan said. “He made the point then [that] you just don’t find guys that big that can move like that.”
The Patriots selected Seymour No. 6 overall in the 2001 NFL draft, the first of four Georgia defensive linemen taken in the first round from 2001-2003.
Professional success arrived quickly for the 6-foot-6 Seymour.
He started 10 games on the D-line as a rookie, moving between nose tackle, defensive end and even linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
Less than a year after leaving Athens, Seymour started in and won the 2002 Super Bowl.
Belichick said in a May 12 statement published on the Patriots website that the franchise would not have won its three early 2000s championships without Seymour.
“Richard came into the league as a mature, humble, high character person and quickly became one of the cornerstone players in the early stages of the program,” Belichick said in the statement.
In eight seasons with the Patriots, Seymour reached five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2003- 2007.
Donnan and Belichick both consider Seymour among the top two defensive tackles they’ve coached, yet the final step in Seymour’s football journey – enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio – has proven elusive.
He’s been on the ballot each year since 2018, the first round he was eligible. Seymour said in the May 11 press conference he thinks his induction into the Patriots hall could improve his chances come 2021.
“It’s such a competitive situation,” Donnan said. “But his time will come.”