Jonotthan Harrison is used to being a guy who has to scrap for everything that comes his way.
“I’m here to work at the end of the day. Every year of my career so far, I’ve had to compete to get on the field,” said Harrison, who appeared in 24 contests for the Green & White in 2017-18. “Whatever decision they decide to do, that’s up to them. I’m here to work, I’m here to compete and looking forward to the potential opportunity to be a part of this offensive line.”
After starting eight games at center for the Jets last season, Harrison will finish the spring taking first-team reps with the offense in the middle. The University of Florida product, who went undrafted in 2014 and played 44 games with the Colts over three seasons, has grown close to the talented 22-year-old signal-caller whom he is snapping to and hoping to provide protection for throughout the 2019 campaign.
“Sam’s my guy,” Harrison said of the Jets’ second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. “Off the field, we’re good friends, we might hang out and go grab a bite or something and we’ll text each other. Sam’s just a great guy and I love the way he plays. I always put it as he still has a little backyard football in him. He understands everything going on, but if he needs to make something happen, he’s great at making something happen.”
As the relationship grows off the field, Darnold believes the foundation between the two continues to build on it.
“You want to be close to everyone that you're working with. But, there is kind of that center-quarterback – you really want to be on the same page every single play,” Darnold said. “For us to kind of have that bond on and off the field, it's awesome and it makes things a lot easier out there on the field.”
Harrison has the ability to make Darnold’s job easier, identifying the Mike ‘backer and establishing protections as the young passer gets to the line.
“He can make the calls, he can really get things going on the line and the quarterback can change it if he wants,” head coach Adam Gase said of the center in his offense. “He can follow up, he can kind of hear what’s going on. So it’s almost where somebody else is starting it and he can finish it, so it’s eliminating some steps for him and that’s critical because it’s just one less thing he’s worried about.”
The 6’4”, 300-pound Harrison is an athletic lineman who has helped set the pace for the offense throughout OTAs and minicamp.
“He’s extremely smart. He does a great job, his energy level and just keeping the tempo going for that group,” Gase said. “If you watch him, you can tell those guys really follow his lead. He has a very good way about him as far as setting the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, getting those guys ready, getting their hands in the dirt, making the call, being decisive. All those little things are very valuable at that spot and I think he’s done a good job of that.”
After electing not to add a center in free agency or the draft, the ball is resting in Harrison’s court. A starter in 32 of his 68 career games, Harrison has an excellent opportunity in front of him.
“The way that free agency and the draft kind of worked out, we just didn’t acquire anybody else,” Gase said. “We’re always looking to improve and create competition at every spot — not just that spot but throughout the entire offensive line. You just want to create as much competition in that room as possible.”
Harrison will be up for the competition once the pads come on late in July. He is a battler, ready to turn up the heat this summer at One Jets Drive.
“I try to be physical out there,” he said. “I love getting after some D-linemen, I love making D-linemen and linebackers mad.”