Jets’ Harrison has taken unlikely road to NFL

Damon Harrison was cut twice from his middle school football team and then again during training camp for the team at his community college. But he might just be finding a way to make it with the Jets.

The long road to the NFL has had its ups and downs for Harrison, who comes to the Jets from William Penn, a tiny NAIA school in Iowa. Before he even entered high school, Harrison was twice cut from his middle school team in New Iberia, La. and was so discouraged that he swore off football and switched his attention to basketball in high school. From ninth grade through his junior year, Harrison excelled on the court until Nov. 29, 2005 when he tore his meniscus on his 17th birthday. He gained 40 pounds while he recovered from the injury and that summer, after some begging from the coaching staff, tried out for the high school team.

This time, Harrison made it.

“I had a lot of fun playing football that year. Even though I had played just one year, I did really well. I played everywhere along the offensive line and on defense, well I played defensive end,” Harrison told Metro New York. “But I only really had an offer to play at a community college and no major colleges offered me, because I played just that one year.”

So Harrison attended the community college, but was cut during training camp. His defensive coordinator told him that he “wasn’t going to be good enough to play.” He left school and through a temp agency landed a job at Walmart near what is now his hometown of Lake Charles. He worked doing overnight stocking of shelves and his easy-going spirit coupled with his obvious physical strength made him a favorite of management.

On the same day that Walmart offered him a full-time job, Harrison received a call from William Penn.

“One of my former coaches was coaching there now and he wanted me to play there. I really didn’t have to think about it too much; I wanted to play,” Harrison said. “So I did, I went after it.”

Harrison excelled at William Penn, where the inferior competition couldn’t handle the size and strength of his 6-foot-4, 350-pound frame or the athleticism that saw him star in basketball in high school. Typical of small school players, he was overlooked in the NFL Draft, but the Jets liked what they saw of him on film, especially since he’s the prototypical player for the nose in their 3-4.

“I know personally, I have a long ways to go, a lot to learn and a lot to understand about the game. There’s a lot more I need to learn, to understand about playing at this high a level. In college, I obviously wasn’t playing against top competition,” Harrison said. “They’re not making any promises, but I keep getting better and better each day so I hope I can take the next step with them.”

A big part of the learning curve for Harrison has been the defense’s meetings in the afternoon, where they can go over the playbook and study film. He has made friends with Mohammad Wilkerson, the defensive end who was the Jets’ top pick last year and has earned praise from head coach Rex Ryan this offseason.

Wilkerson came from Temple, a program often overlooked for its football talent, and sees enough similarities in Harrison to lead him to mentor the rookie.

“I was a rookie last year and I know what it is like, to want to learn at the first try. He’s really eager,” Wilkerson said. “He’s physically strong and athletic. If he keeps honing his craft I think he can do well here.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news on Gang Green.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…