David Harris during a Michigan game
After the regular season ended, David Harris returned to his native Michigan to spend some time with friends and family. During his stay, he dropped by Ann Arbor and spoke with a few of his UM teammates about his rookie campaign with the Jets.
"I got positive feedback but some guys gave us crap about the kind of season we had, especially with the Giants doing so well," he said. "But that's going to change next year. It's going to change next year — I promise you that."
Losing just doesn't sit well with Harris. The 6'2", 243-pounder, an instant hit as a rookie inside linebacker on the Jets defense, watched the NFL playoffs but wasn't interested in making a Super Bowl appearance.
"I'm not going to the Super Bowl until we make it there. I'll watch it on TV until then," he said Wednesday after taping a segment for the first off-season "Jets Nation" show with SportsNet New York. "I just thought about it after the season. I don't want to be part of all those festivities and everything and not be playing."
Harris, the Jets' second-round selection a year ago, hasn't experienced a losing season in a few years. He goes back to his junior year at Ottawa Hills High School, when his team finished 2-7.
"The next year we went 6-3 and lost in the third round of the playoffs by one point," he said. "That still hurts. We were up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but they came back and beat us in the final seconds."
At that time, Harris played LB on defense and FB on offense. When he arrived at Michigan, an offensive coach wondered if his position was etched in stone.
"I've been playing linebacker for a while now. Michigan recruited me as a linebacker but the offensive coordinator, Terry Malone — he's the tight ends coach of the Saints now — wanted to know if I would move to offense," Harris said.
The decision was easy for the young talent.
"I like giving out the punishment, so I stuck to linebacker," he said.
Sound choice. Following a successful run at Michigan, Harris had a phenomenal rookie campaign for the Green & White. Taking over at ILB for Jonathan Vilma at the season's midway point, Harris totaled 121 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles while making only nine starts. He held up well despite a long and sometimes trying first campaign.
"I was more mentally spent than anything. Physically I was fine, I didn't have any injuries or anything, but a losing season is hard," he said. "We lost 12 games and the way we lost those games was hard. But it's over now and we have to look forward to next season."
So each weekday, he drives to Weeb Ewbank Hall and works out with the same group of 10 to 15 players. Make no mistake, either — these guys don't have to be here because off-season workouts don't begin for several weeks. But Sal Alosi, the club's strength coach, has a large contingent in the weight room by 9 a.m.
"You can't sit back and be complacent," Harris said. "You have to do whatever you can do to make yourself better."
Another member of that workout group is Jason Trusnik. Both Harris and Trusnik, an undrafted free agent from Ohio Northern, have also begun a self-scout.
"We have done some film study, looking at certain plays and certain situations," Harris said. "Last week we watched all the first- and second-down runs."
Harris is the quarterback of this 3-4 defense. He has to be the master communicator, getting the call from the sideline, relaying it to his teammates and then making the check if necessary.
"I want to work on a lot of things, actually, but probably the biggest thing is recognition, being able to anticipate plays before the snap of the ball," he said. "Get the formations down and know the tendencies of what they like to run in down and distance. That will make things easier and allow me to play quicker without thinking so much."
Harris is grounded and only concerned about what he can control, so he doesn't worry about the Jonathan Vilma trade speculation and the NFL's impending free agency period. He has always been quick to credit JV, Eric Barton and others for helping him make his pro transition.
This is Harris' first true off-season and he says he's got a lot of time on his hands after his workouts. A trip to Hawaii is on the horizon with his long-time girlfriend, a young lady whom he met at Michigan and who owns a master's degree in nuclear engineering.
"She organizes everything and planned the itinerary. We're going to visit some volcanoes," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It will be the first time leaving the mainland. I guess we'll hang out and go to the beach."
But before that vacation, Harris will work on his promise. His slogan is change and the plan is already in action.