Ajene Harris had a decision to make.
As he boarded a five-hour red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to sign his first professional contract, he had two options. Harris could either sleep or study his months-old notes to get ready for a practice he might not even make.
The answer was easy.
"I'm like, ‘Man, I don't have time to sleep!'" Harris said.
While he was working out in Southern California last Monday, Harris got a call from the Eagles around 4 p.m. and was on a red-eye to Philly by 9. He landed at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday, passed his physical and got on the field at about 9:50 a.m. with practice already underway. He stretched quickly with an assistant coach and jumped right in for a few reps.
Just two days later, the undrafted rookie cornerback from USC played 17 snaps in his first-ever NFL game.
It was a crazy week.
"I was just excited," Harris said. "I was tired a little bit. I was more thinking, ‘Man, I'm blessed with this opportunity.' I want to take advantage of it."
Back in mid-May, Harris was one of 29 tryout players at the Eagles' rookie minicamp, but he failed to earn a roster spot. The team made him turn in his playbook after the camp ended, but he was allowed to keep his notes. Those were the same notes he studied on his way back to Philly Monday night into Tuesday morning.
Before the game, the Eagles held a walkthrough Wednesday, which allowed Harris to catch his breath while keeping his nose in the playbook. He said he actually felt pretty prepared for the game despite his late arrival. And he actually performed well in the game, picking up three tackles and a sack.
Back in May, after minicamp ended without a contract, Harris returned to L.A. and waited patiently for a phone call that took three months.
During those three months, he stayed in shape at USC and even worked briefly parking cars for Alamo Rent A Car at the airport.
"It is kind of tough because you don't know when the phone call is going to come," Harris said. "But you have to keep faith, man. I just kept faith in myself. I would say I was kind of down, but I kept seeing the light and I didn't quit on myself."
Harris hopes to stand out the rest of the summer and in the preseason, but there just isn't much opportunity with the Eagles for an undrafted corner. They have Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Cre'Von LeBlanc and a few younger players who have been here longer than Harris.
But he's not worried about all that. He's already feeling more comfortable at the NovaCare Complex and is just focusing on performing well in practice and getting ready for the next preseason game on Thursday in Jacksonville.
Harris thought Saturday's practice went very well.
"I got to sleep last night," he said with a smile.
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How Eagles rookie Ajene Harris played in a game two days after signing originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia