The New York Giants uncharacteristically opened their piggy bank and spent money on big time free agents in 2016. Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon got most of the attention but it was the addition of Damon Harrison that truly solidified the Giants’ defense.
The man called Snacks had a long road to the NFL.
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He played collegiately at William Penn University, an NAIA school in Oskaloosa, Iowa whose teams are nicknamed the Statesmen. Before Harrison, William Penn was most famous for producing former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Wilbur Young and tight end Andy Stokes, the 2005 Mr. Irrelevant.
Harrison worked his way onto the New York Jets’ starting lineup, establishing himself as one of the league’s best defensive tackles. This is why the Giants signed him to a five-year, $46.25 million deal with $24 million in guaranteed money.
It didn’t take long for Giants fans to see Snacks was worth his weight.
Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul played more snaps than any defensive end combo in the NFL last season. Harrison, however, was the lunch pail player that did all of the dirty work. His presence made it possible for the Giants’ defensive playmakers to function.
Harrison dominated the middle and forced teams into passing situations. He gave defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the freedom to employ creative blitzes and apply blitzes from unexpected areas. Harrison is the ideal player for Spagnuolo’s defense. His most valuable assets are not his size, strength, and quickness (though those are all excellent qualifications).
Harrison’s most valuable assets in the defense are patience, discipline, and skill. Spagnuolo wants players who play fast with aggression. Players also have to be smart and aware of what’s going on. Harrison is aggressive but it’s a channeled aggression. He knows how to keep it under control until the ball is snapped.
Off the field, Harrison has a positively infectious personality that players gravitate towards. He is a role model as an undrafted player. His undrafted Giants teammates have picked his brain throughout the Giants’ organized team activities (OTAs)…well, sort of.
“Yeah, man,” Harrison said with a laugh. “Everybody wants to know I did it…I can’t tell them. It’s a secret. I’m going to write a book and y’all will have to buy it, man.”
Harrison’s humor doesn’t come from a place of arrogance. It comes from humility. He does offer some advice for the undrafted free agents.
“I just tell them the same thing you tell the first pick or second round pick,” he said. “You have to put your head down and you have to work. You have to outwork everybody you see on the field, and you can’t afford to walk around. You know, I’m the old fat guy, I can walk around, but you can’t afford to walk around.
“Everybody is watching you. They are watching you in the stretch lines, they are watching you in the cafeteria, you always under a microscope. So just always be working.”
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