A lifelong dream finally came true for Damien Harris.
The University of Alabama running back and former Madison Southern High School standout was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft over the weekend as the 87th overall selection by the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
“I’ve been waiting on this moment for I don’t even know how long, since I first picked up a football, and just to be in this moment, be with my family, my friends, everyone that’s supported me is unbelievable — an unbelievable experience,” he said.
Harris was elated to be selected by the Patriots, a team that relies heavily on the running game with an offense anchored by veteran quarterback Tom Brady.
“Being a part of this organization in and of itself is an honor and a privilege,” he said. “I’m super excited and super happy to be a part of the Patriots.”
Harris enjoyed a stellar career at Alabama, where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of four seasons with the Crimson Tide. He rushed for 23 touchdowns during his collegiate career and caught 22 passes for 204 yards and added 876 yards rushing during his senior campaign last season.
“Just the whole [experience] being at Alabama has been unbelievable,” he said. “There have been so many people that have helped me on this journey get to where I am today. I can’t thank all the coaches (enough) — coach (Nick) Saban, coach (Burton) Burns, coach (Joe) Pannunzio for turning me into the best running back I can be, coach Scott Cochran getting me in the best shape that I could always be in. Really everybody, they’ve always been there for me, they’ve always helped me get to the point I’m at now, so I’m super thankful to have had those guys and to have been a part of the Alabama experience.”
Overall, Alabama won two national titles during his four-year career and three Southeastern Conference titles, including a 35- 28 win over Georgia last year. Harris said the experience of playing at Alabama has helped prepare him for the next level.
“I think coach (Nick) Saban prepares all of his guys to be ready for this next level and be ready for the NFL,” he said. “Obviously, coach Saban and coach (Bill) Belichick are very similar, they know each other, they’re friends. I think that on top of coach Saban being the coach that he is, I think him having that relationship will also help me transition to the NFL and the Patriots and help me be successful.”
Harris will join a New England backfield that includes former Georgia running back Sony Michael. Going into his first season, Harris is just focused on his own game.
“He’s a great running back,” Harris said of Michael. “He was always great in college. He even had a great season last year. So, I just want to go in and be the best version of myself. I don’t like to compare myself to him, but just come in and work hard and add to the team and help the team become more successful.”
The Patriots selected Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round, reuniting the former Auburn quarterback with Harris. The two played pee wee football together in Richmond, marking the beginning of a remarkable beginning for the two players.
Stidham is looking forward to playing alongside Harris again, especially in the NFL.
“I’ve known Damien for basically my entire life it seems like and we’ve definitely kept in touch, and I’ve obviously played him the last couple of years,” he said. “Life always comes full circle, and to be with the very first year of tackle football playing with Damien and now we’re both New England Patriots, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Former Madison Southern tight end Luke Stocker was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signed a two-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons last month. He played the last two years with the Tennessee Titans.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.