Damien Harris has been down the road that is currently being traveled by the New England Patriots’ two highest-drafted rookies. Just like Mac Jones and Christian Barmore, the running back also joined the organization after having spent his college career at the University of Alabama.
Naturally, there is a connection between him and the other former Crimson Tide players on the roster — and an understanding about the transition that is needed to leave Nick Saban’s program and join Bill Belichick’s in New England. Harris, a third-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2019, experienced it first-hand.
So, what would he tell his young teammates, especially those with the same collegiate background?
“Any advice that I would give to any young guy, I tell myself every day; I’d tell it to everybody. It’s just: Come to work every day and put your best foot forward,” Harris recently told Patriots.com’s Scott Zolak.
“Always have to live in the present. You’re never going to have any perfect days. Even on your best days it’s not going to be perfect. On your worst days, it’s not going to be perfect. So, every day, just show up with the mentality to work, just show up with the mentality to get better. Most importantly, show up with the mentality of ‘Out of myself and into the team’ because that’s what this organization is about.”
Harris started his career with the Patriots in a backup capacity but established himself as the team’s number one running back in 2020. Despite being hampered by injuries early and late during the year, he still gained a team-high 691 yards on 137 carries while also finding the end zone twice.
Now heading into his third season in the system, Harris is again projected to play a prominent role — and to serve as a mentor of sorts for the likes of Jones and Barmore. As he pointed out, though, leadership cannot be limited to players from a similar background.
“Obviously, any opportunity I have to help a young guy, whether he’s from Alabama, here, an older guy, it really doesn’t matter,” Harris said. “It’s all about being out of ourselves, into the team, looking out for one another and just continue to come together and strive for being the best team that we can possibly be.”
That said, New England adding two more players from the Crimson Tide via the draft to bring the total to five — Harris, Jones and Barmore are joined by linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Anfernee Jennings — was a welcome development for the third-year back.
“It’s great to have a lot of Alabama guys here,” he said. “Our program at Alabama was very similar to what goes on here. I think the best part about that was knowing what to expect. We know that Coach Belichick, Coach Saban obviously two of the best of the best of the best. We know they run their programs very similarly — obviously they have their differences, but we know for the most part coming up here what to expect and what we’re getting into.”