BOSTON (CBS) — Finding one’s way to the NFL is different for every player. Some come into the league as a high pick with high expectations, while most have to wait a day or two to hear their name called at the draft — if they are lucky enough to hear their name get called over the three-day event.
Patriots running back Damien Harris was one of those who had to wait. As a third-round pick, Harris patiently waited until Friday night of the 2019 NFL Draft to get the phone call that he’d been hoping to receive his whole life.READ MORE: CBS Sports Ranks Patriots As Having Best Draft In Entire NFL
And unfortunately for him, that wasn’t the only phone call that he received during that suspenseful — and somewhat stressful — evening.
“The funny part that people don’t talk about; for some reason people don’t think to not call or text you while you’re waiting. So you have random people calling and texting you,” Harris recalled in a 1-on-1 with WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton. “‘What are you doing tonight?’ I donno, trying to get drafted — how about you stay off my phone! But you can’t put it on silent because you can’t miss that call!
“It was definitely an interesting experience, but it was a great one,” Harris said with a smile. “I ended up exactly where I needed to be and very grateful to be in this position.”
Harris ended up getting the phone call when it was New England’s turn to make the 87th pick. When he picked up, it was Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the other end.
“As soon as I answered the phone, because you hear that voice, that very cutthroat, no nonsense, no BS voice. As soon as he started talking, I felt like I was in the military,” said Harris. “I felt like I had to be at attention on the phone. Everything he said I’d just say ‘yes sir.’ I was excited but I was still like, ‘This is the real deal. This is going to be fun.’ But at the same time, I’m going into no-nonsense situation. This is what the NFL is all about — the Patriot Way that people talk about all the time.
“I knew that I was stepping into the real NFL, what it’s all about,” continued Harris. “Hard work, putting your nose in the dirt. Grit, determination, all the things that embody the Patriot Way. I was excited, but I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. But I’ve loved every second of being a Patriot.”READ MORE: Patriots Sign Undrafted Kicker Quinn Nordin
After that chat with Belichick, Harris had to take a moment to let his new reality set in.
“That was kind of the moment — you know when people talk about turning your dreams into a reality? The night I heard my name called at the draft was when my dreams became a reality,” said Harris. “I’ve been in the league a short amount of time and haven’t done nearly as much as I want to do, but in that moment with my family around me — my friends, my mom — everything I had put into the game at that point, that was the moment it became a reality that I was blessed to do what I love for a living.”
It was an emotional moment for Harris and everyone at his draft party, especially his mother.
“She didn’t even have words. We cried for a long time,” said Harris. “It was such an emotional relief for both of us, because we both put so much into it. I could talk about all the things I’ve done to get to this point, but the sacrifices and everything my mom has had to do — raising me as a single mother, and with two younger sisters — taking care of others in our family, being the backbone of our family and just seeing that payoff for her, that was all it was about for me in that moment. I’d seen the highs and the lows, the best moments and the worst moments. I had seen it all, and seeing that moment unfold for my mom was truly special. What more motivation do you need to take care of you mom, your family, those who have sacrificed for you to get to that moment?”
The Patriots drafted eight new players over the weekend, including quarterback Mac Jones, who briefly crossed paths with Harris at Alabama. Harris has some very simple advice for New England’s incoming rookie class.
“Where you get drafted doesn’t really matter. I know everyone wants to be a first-round pick. I wanted to be one more than anything. But it doesn’t matter when you step in to this organization because everyone has to do their job,” he said. “Everyone is held to the same standard, is held accountable and has to be ready to work. That’s the name of the game.MORE NEWS: Lombardi: Mac Jones Will Have 'Redshirt Year' As Rookie With Patriots
“It’s about the work. There is no magic pill you can take or secret formula or shortcut you can take. This game doesn’t accept that,” he continued. “It’s all about the work, coming in with the mindset to be the best you can be and be the best for your organization. That’s all that matters; being ready to walk in and just go to work.”