FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Damon Harrison has made his presence felt on the New York Jets’ defense, working his way from being an undrafted free agent out of William Penn in 2012 to a starting NFL nose tackle.
Although the 26-year-old Harrison has established himself as one the league’s best at his position, he’s sometimes overshadowed on a line that includes Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams – all first-round draft picks. The 6-foot-4, 350-pound Harrison is one of the Jets’ most confident and colorful characters, and one of their most important – if not underrated – players.
Get to know a little more about the man nicknamed ”Snacks” before the Jets take on Andrew Luck and the Colts in Indianapolis on Monday night:
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PATH FROM UNDRAFTED TO NFL STARTER: ”It was pretty rough, man. Every day, you wouldn’t know if today is the day they’ll call you and ask for the playbook. It’s nerve-racking. I knew I’d play football after college, but I didn’t think the NFL. It just seemed like too big a jump to go from (NAIA-level) William Penn to the NFL.”
GROWING UP IN NEW IBERIA, LOUISIANA: ”I grew up in the projects and it was your typical neighborhood with a little bit of everything, some positive stuff and a lot of negative. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for that area and that environment.”
PLAYED SHOOTING GUARD IN BASKETBALL AT LAKE CHARLES BOSTON ACADEMY: ”I was a pure shooter, man.”
BUT INJURED KNEE AS A JUNIOR: ”Yeah, and I gained about 50 pounds and decided to play football.”
STILL HAVE THAT SHOT, THOUGH?: ”Yes, sir! I mean, I have to back up a little more now because I’m a lot stronger, but you just never lose that form.”
WENT TO NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE BUT DIDN’T PLAY FOOTBALL: ”The coaches convinced me to sign a release form saying that I was going to pretty much waste a year of eligibility because I wasn’t going to play. Once I signed the release form, they couldn’t honor my scholarship anymore.”
WORKED OVERNIGHTS STOCKING SHELVES AT WALMART IN LOUISIANA: ”I was just trying to find something to do to make some money. I started off in the pets department and finished in cosmetics. The first night, they tell you to not stock the bottom shelf while you’re sitting on the floor. I found out the hard way and fell asleep in the middle of the aisle.”
ENDED UP PLAYING FOOTBALL AT WILLIAM PENN IN OSKALOOSA, IOWA: ”It was a culture shock out of this world, man. I had never seen snow before in my life. I don’t think I had ever been colder than maybe 45 or 50 degrees. The second day, it was like minus-2 and I had no shoes, only sandals. I kept wiping the snow off my jacket. I didn’t know that if you let it sit there, it’ll just melt off.”
CONSIDER YOURSELF UNDERRATED?: ”I wouldn’t use that word, but I can understand why other people do because I’m not the household name like Muhammad, Sheldon and Leonard are. The people who watch football know exactly what I do.
PRO BOWL ASPIRATIONS?: ”I have championship aspirations. If that were to happen, I wouldn’t be able to play in the Pro Bowl, so hopefully I don’t get to play in the Pro Bowl anytime soon.”
BEST NOSE TACKLE IN THE NFL IS … ?: ”Myself. I don’t say that as a knock to anybody else. I just know myself and what I bring to the table. I don’t believe anybody in the NFL, once you look at the description of a nose tackle, does it better.”
EMBRACED ”SNACKS” NICKNAME?: ”I wasn’t too fond of it because it started off here as a joke (because of his penchant for sweets) and it stuck, but I realized that as long as they were calling me something, I was still in the building.”
HOBBIES: ”Playing Madden, Call of Duty, NBA2K, dominoes and Spider Solitaire.”
FAVORITE MUSIC/ARTIST: ”R&B and Luther Vandross.”
FAVORITE TV SHOW: ”`Martin.’ You can always count on it for a good laugh and sometimes there’s some real-world stuff thrown into it.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: ”`The Five Heartbeats’ is No. 1. Oh, and `Rise of the Planet of the Apes.’ As a collective unit on the defensive line, that’s our favorite movie. We watch it every time we go to the hotel, and we act out scenes every single day. Muhammad is Koba and Quinton (Coples) is Caesar, but I didn’t get a name yet.”
FAVORITE FOOD: ”Crawfish and shrimp fettucine.”
PREGAME SUPERSTITION: ”I eat the same meal, wake up at the same time and play the same set of songs when I get to the stadium.”
IF I WASN’T PLAYING FOOTBALL, I WOULD BE … : ”Playing in the NBA. I’d probably be a short shooting guard, but I’d be in the NBA, and I’m very confident in saying that.”
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