Damon Harrison is not called “snacks” Harrison for the fun of it. Just take a look at how powerful and sturdy he is. He is 6’3 and is a solid 353 pounds. Snacks is currently a nose tackle for the NFL’s Detroit Lions born in Louisiana. Harrison played college football for William Penn University and was signed onto the New York Jets in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Throughout his high school career, he primarily played basketball as a shooting guard until an injury prevented him from playing further. This proved to be a blessing in disguise as he soon picked up football during his senior year. Due to the majority of the recruiting process taking place during the junior year of high school, Harrison was overlooked by scouts and ended up without a football scholarship and attended community college. Rather than letting that defeat him Harrison persevered and went on to become First-team All-Pro in 2016, NAIA All America in 2011, First Team All-MSFA in 2011, and Second team all MSFA in both 2009 and 2010. LRT Sports reached out to Harrison to get his advice to college athletes as well as high schoolers going through the recruitment process.
LRT Sports: What is the best piece of advice that you can off a college athlete that is looking to play at the next level?
Harrison: To not be afraid to sacrifice the now for the future. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from people who aren’t on the same path as you no matter how close you are.
LRT Sports: Looking back on your career and going through all the ups and downs what would be the main do and don’t that you can offer to an athlete.
Harrison: The main thing to do is to keep your confidence. You wouldn’t have made it as far as you did without your confidence so don’t change it because you may be afraid of stiffer competition, they can smell it. The biggest don’t is to not be arrogant about it. The NFL has a way of humbling guys who are like that.
LRT Sports: What is the best advice that a coach has given you, and who was that coach?
Harrison: The best advice given to me from a coach was from my high school coach who told me to never allow anyone to put limitations on my life. Those who tell you that you can’t do something say that because they themselves couldn’t do it.
LRT Sports: How difficult was it to maintain your academic success while still being a student-athlete?
Harrison: It’s not that difficult to maintain your academic standing while playing sports. Between the early film sessions, early weight lifting, classes, and practicing. You’re a student first and foremost so that should always take precedence over any extracurricular activities off campus or on. Prioritize!
LRT Sports: What was the deciding when for you when you choose your college? Was it the coach, academics, or the culture of the school?
Harrison: I had a different journey in choosing my school so my story is very different from others. I was forced to go the junior college route due to me not taking my grades serious in my early high school years. Choosing my university was easy because they were the only ones who offered me a scholarship.
LRT Sports: What advice can you give to an athlete who is looking to get off the bench and play more?
Harrison: The best advice to give a kid who is a backup is to grind harder than the starters study harder than the starter. Use that time to work on the little things because the big things are easy and come naturally. People miss out on opportunities because of the small things.
LRT Sports: What is the best piece of advice that you can offer an athlete when they hit a wall?
Harrison: If you find yourself hitting a wall just take a step back and reflect on the present and past things that caused it and try to change it. The best possible thing to do to overcome something is to identify what it is and understand how you can get through it. Some things aren’t meant to go around. It could be meant for you to go through it.
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For High School Athletes
LRT Sports: What is the best piece of advice that you can offer to a high school athlete who is looking to play at the collegiate level?
Harrison: Take your grades more serious than you do the sport you play. Education is the end all be all of life. It’s a great equalizer. Only 1% will become a professional athlete and a smaller number will make a career out of it. You need a good education to succeed in ANY profession.
LRT Sports: What advice would you give to an athlete who got turned down by their dream school?
Harrison: If your dream school turned you down, try your best to find out why and work to correct it and try again. If that doesn’t work then it’s not the place for you. Don’t force what’s not meant to be. Go somewhere where you’re wanted. It also could end up that way as a sign for you to work harder to get what you want. It depends on the situation.
LRT Sports: What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment process?
Harrison: I never went through the recruitment process so I have no idea. I emailed the schools I wanted to attend pretty much begging for an opportunity to prove myself. Only one responded.
LRT Sports: What is the most significant difference between high school sports and college sports?
Harrison: The biggest difference between high school and college sports is the amount of mental stamina that goes into it. Everyone thinks it’s the size and speed of the players but it’s actually the opposite. The next level is filled with big and fast guys who are very detailed and know their respective sport inside and out.
LRT Sports: Do you have any pre-game rituals if so what is one?
Harrison: Only pregame ritual I have is I listen to the same playlist 30 minutes before I walk out the tunnel every game. It’s filled with songs from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. I never go out without first hearing it.
LRT Sports: What is the funniest moment that has happened to you or a teammate when out on the field?
Harrison: The funniest in-game moment came during my first ever game. Monday night football versus the Houston Texans. I had no idea I would play and was thrown in the game on a big 3rd and short play. I was so scared that I forgot to line down before the ball was snapped. I was in a daze. The players were yelling at me to get down but I couldn’t hear them. We had to call timeout. It’s something I still haven’t been able to live down since it happened.
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.