For a little bit of inspiration, all of the undrafted free agents on the Jets' roster and around the NFL couldn't do any better than to check out the résumé of defensive tackle
All of us Jets fans already know the story. Harrison was a UDFA himself, signed by the Jets after the 2012 draft out of William Penn University of the NAIA. Talk about your longshots.
But "Snacks" was too busy with building his pro career. The 6'4", 350-pounder bided his time and learned his way around the interior in the Jets' defensive scheme in his rookie season. Then last year he exploded onto the scene.
Harrison's ready to climb higher along with his front-seven mates and his defense. But he expressed a note of frustration with me recently about all the naysayers and chirpers who are still out there.
Partly that's because he's a driven young man. And partly it's because he knows that for a while in the future, he'll be seen by many as "the third man on that defensive line" lining up between
"I'm fine with that. I'm not a guy who's all into the spotlight or whatnot," he said. "I just would like to be respected more than what I am now as opposed to being a guy who people think just had success because of the two great players I have on the side of me and around me on the defense."
On a great defense, of course, each player benefits from his own skills and from the skill of the unit. But there can be no denying Harrison brought something special to our mix last season. His seven tackles for loss, or "stuffs," as tabulated by Stats Inc., were tied for fourth among the almost 150 qualifying interior linemen in the league last year, and his 66 tackles were third. (Richardson led both lists.)
We'll continue to remind folks that Damon Harrison is the real deal and we're excited to see how he and all of our defenders elevate their play in this season ahead. Capturing that "all for one, one for all" attitude is the way the Jets' front-seven players continue to enter the SUNY Cortland training camp field for practices or MetLife Stadium for games — as a unit, striding as one into the storm.
"That's something we've been doing since Sione Po‘uha was here," Harrison said. "We look at each other as brothers. We don't go into battle or practice or a game without each other. We don't go anywhere without a guy. We'll be late out to practice if a guy's using the bathroom. Kenrick [Ellis], he may get a little antsy because he wants to get out there, but he won't leave until we're out there. It's a true brotherhood."
Harrison can take solace in that brotherhood, and he has a message for those who would dare to suggest he's some kind of weak link or unproven component of this powerful group. The man whom head coach Rex Ryan back in his rookie year called "Snacks" for his love of, well, the occasional snack, summed it up this way:
"I'm still hungry. It's just a different appetite."