In this 13th edition for the 2012 season we sat down with recently acquired defensive back Erick Harris and discussed playing football at Liberty University, his many travels, tornadoes and the food while in playing in Europe.
Editor: Erick, thanks for joining us. I’ll get right into it. As a graduate of Liberty University, what were some of the advantages of playing football at a small school as opposed to some of the larger universities?
Erick Harris: I think the main advantage is that is what still Division 1, but yet if you were good enough, teams would still be able to find you. Not at all in a boastful way, but I can honestly say that there was me and maybe two or three others that really stood out from the rest. That’s pretty much the main reason we’re still playing. So, we literally separated ourselves from the rest of the team, which allowed us to be recognized and get to that next level. You know, one other thing is that at these small schools, you’re more likely and have a greater ability to be number one or two on the depth chart, and you play a lot more, rather than maybe sitting behind three guys at some of the larger schools just waiting for your opportunity.
ED: You also went undrafted, but what are some of the challenges that go into remaining confident in your ability and know within that you can still make it in professional football?
EH: Well for me, it was tough, but I never got discouraged. I always knew I wanted to play professional football at any level, so for me, I never gave up and always continued to chase the dream. I just ultimately chose to stay humble and knew that if I wanted it, I was going to have to chase it and remain passionate.
ED: You’re somewhat of an AFL journeyman and you also spent some time in af2. What was always the most difficult aspect of adapting to a new team?
EH: I would say just being the new guy. I think it was even a little harder this season because I came in smack in the middle. In the Arena League, they’re bringing in two-day guys just to see what they got. But for me, I’ve been around a while, so I knew the game, but even at that I didn’t want to be the new guy on the team and have people always judging you in terms of talent. It’s a big transition.
ED: Seeing that this move to the Storm was not your first, would you say it has gotten easier over the years?
EH: Oh, definitely. The thing is you can always make up lack of talent for knowledge. And I’m not saying I have a lack of talent, but I do have knowledge having played so many different places, so I think I’ve used that to my advantage over the years.
ED: Has your transition to the Storm been different in any way compared to some of the others?
EH: Some of the calls have been different. You’re used to playing a certain way, but when you come to a different team, there is the same basic concept of coverage, but teams have different signals and plays that you have to learn. The words and everything are pretty much different, so when you come to a new team, you kind of have to wipe the slate clean and forget everything you knew on your past team. Once you do that, it’s pretty easy to pick up.
ED: Speaking of the Storm, we have Hurricane Baryl going on outside right now, and having spent some time in Kansas City, I’m sure you’re no stranger to tornadoes. So what’s more scary for you, a hurricane or a tornado?
EH: Well I’m from Florida originally so I’m used to hurricanes. I would say the tornadoes are way more scary just because you never know where those things are going to go. You never see them coming and they just kind of pop out of nowhere. Last year we saw that with the devastation in Joplin, where they literally tore through houses. You hear those sirens go off, and you don’t know where that thing is or where it’s going, but let me tell you, you get out of there.
ED: Any close encounters during your time in Kansas City?
EH: Early last year around April, the sirens went off and it was really dark. We could see the tornado from downtown. It didn’t come near us fortunately, but just to think that it was about 2 p.m. in the afternoon and the sky looked like it was 9 p.m. That was pretty scary.
ED: Switching gears back to football, after spending some time in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, what were some of the valuable lessons you took the from the NFL that are still prevalent in your game today?
EH: I would say the main thing was that even in the NFL, the guys there are just like you. You grow up idolizing certain players, but then when you get to that level, you realize that you’re no different and that you can play with these guys. After the first one or two practices, I found that I was keeping up with them and I realized that I had that quiet vote of confidence that I could compete. So that really helped me and it doesn’t matter where you go. Once you realize you can compete at that level, you can go on and succeed anywhere you go.
ED: I know you’ve been in Tampa Bay just a short time thus far, but what are you most looking forward to off the field while you are here?
EH: Well I’ve visited before, but have never lived here, so I’m looking forward to getting to know some of the people and to get involved in the community. I love it so far, and even if I have to find another job, I would stay here. So far, I really like what I’ve seen.
ED: There’s a lot of warm weather here, but you’re actually from up in the panhandle from a city called Crestview where it’s a bit cooler in the winter. So do you prefer warm weather or cold weather?
EH: Definitely warm weather. I’m a military brat, so I’ve lived in a lot of places, including some that were cold, and I’ve come to realize I prefer the warm weather.
ED: Having traveled a lot as a result of being in a military family, what’s your favorite place you’ve ever lived?
EH: I think Guam. It’s an island, everything moves at a slow pace and there’s not a lot going on there. I remember it well because I lived there for one of the longest periods of my life, so I really liked it. We had fiestas and siestas every day. It was one grand old time.
ED: I can’t imagine football was very big in Guam, so what are some of your other favorite activities?
EH: I love bowling. I’m a big fan of bowling and I actually have two of my own custom bowling balls in the back of my car. I started bowling when I was five years old and have loved it ever since.
ED: You also spent some time in NFL Europe, so being from the states originally, was there a bit of a culture shock?
EH: No, not really. Like I said, I come from a military family so I was always kind of used to moving around and seeing different places. The only thing shocking was maybe the food.
ED: That leads into my next question. I was going to ask you, what’s the strangest thing you ever ate or drank while playing in Europe?
EH: I was playing in Amsterdam, which is pretty Americanized, but I think the strangest thing we ever ate over there was sheep. It was real tough and had that game-y taste. You would order something, maybe at like Burger King or McDonalds, and you would think you’re getting beef, but then the more you thought about it, you started asking yourself if you were eating something else.
ED: Sounds appetizing. That’s about all I have for you Erick, so thanks once again for joining us on this edition of Eye of the Storm.
EH: Thank you.