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Camp Is Here, and Harris Is Just Heating Up


David Harris during a Michigan game

After two days of his first NFL training camp, rookie linebacker David Harris is fending off the heat.

"Camp is going good. We are getting the rust off from the little layoff since minicamp," Harris said. "Everybody is out here and competing hard. I'm adjusting to the weather. It's a little humid, but I'll fight through it and hope for the best."

Harris, the Jets' second-round selection (No. 47 overall) from Michigan, has already displayed his run-stuffing prowess. It's easy to see why, at 6'2" and 243 pounds, he led the stingy Michigan defense in tackles as a senior with 96. But there is much to learn as the summer unfolds.

"Football is football," he said of the transition to the pro game. "Two-a-days are going to be hard no matter where you go. You have to pick up everything as fast as you can and hopefully it will translate from the classroom to the field."

With the business of signing a contract out of the way, Harris is the Green & White's top pick in camp. He is a grounded young man at 23 who carries the right attitude.

"It's a business now and you have to approach it that way," he said. "We are professionals and you have to carry yourself that way at all times. There is a lot of time to put into the game."

A proponent of "going the extra mile," he gets right into the playbook when the day is over and the players head back to the dorms.

"I'm actually rooming with Chansi Stuckey. We get along very well. He's very funny and cool, just a humble guy," Harris said. "We actually haven't had time to play video games. As soon as we go back to the dorms, we're in our books and then it's lights out after that."

A lights-out performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis elevated Harris' draft stock. He ran a 4.59 in the 40 after learning different techniques and skills under Martin Rooney, a lead instructor at the Parisi Speed School in New Jersey.

"I improved my form both laterally and straight ahead," Harris said. "It was the best decision I could ever make. I feel a lot lighter on my feet.

"The other big thing is nutrition. I try to keep my body fat down as low as possible so I'm not carrying extra weight. I was out in New Jersey the whole time leading up to Indianapolis and it kind of adjusted me to life now in New York."

Rookies don't receive much time off prior to training camp, but Harris made good use of his week and a half, helping out his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Me and four other guys in the NFL from Grand Rapids put on this youth football camp. The camp was free and it helped raise money for this recreation building in the city," he said. "We had a good turnout. It was a two-day camp and each day we had 270 guys. The first day was 8-to-13-year-olds and the second day was all high schoolers, so it was a good moment for the city of Grand Rapids."

After teaching the young kids, Harris is now a youngster amongst the Jets' linebackers. He frequently lines up next to Jonathan Vilma on the inside and the veteran 'backer often tests the rookie's knowledge.

"He actually picks my brain. He asks me what to do on different plays just so he can see where my head is at," Harris said of Vilma, a consistent performer who has racked up at least 100 tackles in each of his three NFL seasons. "He is a good teammate and a good person to get advice from. He is a veteran, he knows what to do, and he's a good person."

"It is just a matter of learning the defense.  Of course, myself and Eric Barton are trying to teach him [Harris] everything we know," added Vilma.  "He came from a 4-3 as well, so he is going to have his growing pains going into a 3-4.  We are trying to help him out as much as we can."

Over on the outside, Harris sometimes looks and sees a familiar face in Victor Hobson. When Hobson, a then fifth-year senior, led Michigan in tackles with 99 in 2003, Harris was a redshirt freshman.

"It makes the transition easier. Even if you know one person, it makes it easier because you have someone to talk to," said the rookie. "Victor gives me pointers every chance he gets and has just been a real good teammate."

And Harris' new position coach, Jim Herrmann, actually recruited him to Michigan and was his collegiate defensive coordinator for a couple of seasons. Herrmann continues to stress details with Harris, who last year shared the Bo Schembechler team MVP award with Mike Hart.

"Right now I have to work on staying lower and taking on blocks and using my hands better," he said.

The temperature will surely rise in a pressure-packed NFL season, but David Harris is doing everything necessary now so he can stay cool in the moment.

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