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Damon Harrison: Nervous Rookie, Loving Dad

Posted Oct 12, 2012

We caught up with Jets rookie nose tackle Damon Harrison earlier this week. The 6’4” 350-pounder made his NFL debut Monday night against the Texans. No. 71 talked with us about that moment, his family, his nickname, and the possibility that with starter Sione Pouha’s status uncertain and backup Kenrick Ellis sidelined for 4-6 weeks, his role will expand.

You’ve had a remarkable journey to get to where you are here with the Jets. Now that you’ve been on the final roster for a month and a half, what’s changed most in your life?

Just some of the guys I’m around. Like before, being a rookie and not sure if you’re going to be here, it’s hard to make friendships with the guys. Just the friendships I’ve made so far, that’s the biggest change, because at the end of the day it’s still football.

Would you say you have a closest friend on the team so far?

Me and Quinton [Coples] out of anybody, because we were rookies and we came in here to rookie minicamp together.

Monday night was your first NFL game. What was that moment like for you?

The whole experience, it was kind of bittersweet because we lost the game. But being able to go out on a Monday night, on a stage like that, man, it was awesome.

Was it what you expected it would be like?

The whole week I wasn’t nervous. Coach [Karl] Dunbar told me I would be nervous, but I tried to convince myself I wouldn’t. Until we came off of warmups and I saw the lights were on and the cameras and everything, man, that was awesome. So, I mean, I was nervous. I went out there and kind of forgot a lot of things. If you would have asked me my name, I probably wouldn’t even have been able to tell you, I was so nervous.

Did any family or friends attend the game?

No. My mom, she doesn’t fly.

A lot of people congratulated you for making it out there, though.

Yeah, I had text messages and phone calls from everybody. And everybody on Twitter was showing me a lot of love. So it was exciting and a big moment for me.

You obviously love football. But what are some other hobbies you have away from the field?

Just being a dad, man. I love being around my kids.

How many kids do you have?

I have two.

Are they young?

I have a 4-year-old son named Elijah and a 3-year-old daughter named Destiny.

How has it been having them up here?

They’ve actually only come up to visit, so I’m trying to get them up here permanently. But you know, it’s hard to be able to move your family without knowing for sure you’re going to be here for the whole season. But I have faith. So I’ll have them up here pretty soon as long as I keep working hard.

Is that pretty tough not having them up here?

Yeah, that’s the toughest thing I’ve had to go through.

Do you try to talk with them every few days?

Every day, every day. I’m about to get on Skype with them right now. I always call them after practice.

And where do they live?

They live in Iowa, where I went to school at, in the town.

What’s it been like learning from veterans Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito?

Sione and Mike, they’re two different players, but they both learned from each other. So just getting the wisdom from Sione and Mike DeVito, man, you can’t go wrong as a rookie. Just following in their footsteps, you’ll do everything right, because those guys, they’re almost perfect.

Do they have different styles? Is one more vocal than the other?

Both are pretty quiet, but they have the same style. They learned from each other. Everything that DeVito knows, he told me he got from Sione and Sione got from the guys that were here before him. So they’re just passing the knowledge down.

What has Coach Dunbar emphasized to you most during your time here so far?

Just become a better player. I was so far behind everybody. He works hard with me trying to get in the playbook and just trying to get me physically better and using my hands more, because I didn’t really use my hands a lot in college.

Is he a lot different than former coaches you’ve had?

Yeah, a whole lot different because he actually played the position at this level. So he’s able to give you first-hand knowledge on it as opposed to my high school coaches and my college coaches, who didn’t play the position. They were excellent coaches, but actually having somebody that played in the NFL is great.

Do you feel like he pushes you?

He does, he does [laughing].

You have this nickname, “Big Snacks.” Tell me, how did that come about?

When I got here, I was about 355 pounds. I had to get down to 340. They have Rice Krispies Treats around the building, so Coach Dunbar would grab a couple of them and sit them on my table, just to mess with me and kind of tease me. After that, the nickname just stuck around. He came up with it. He had so many crazy names for people [laughing].

So it’s not just you that he has a nickname for?

No.

Do you have a new nickname, because I’ve heard you don’t like the old nickname too much?

I mean, I’ve grown to like it because everybody in the building calls me “Snacks.” I mean everybody. From the owner to the GM all the way down to the janitors and equipment guys, man.

What about Sunday? Obviously Kenrick is going to be out and Sione may be as well. How prepared do you feel like you are to step in during their absence?

I’m very prepared, man. I’ve been waiting a long time to get an opportunity, and I plan to make the most out of any situation I’m put in. Whether it’s the first quarter or the last snap of the game, I’ll be ready.

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