FOXBORO, Mass. — Had Radio City Music Hall been filled with Patriots fans on Friday April 27 rather than New Yorkers, gasps, followed by boos, may have rained down when the No. 91 overall pick was announced. Many had never heard Duron Harmon‘s name before New England made him its fourth pick in the draft.
But if Harmon keeps up the same attitude he had on Friday afternoon during the first day of Patriots rookie mini-camp, he could make a lot of analysts and fans look mighty stupid. Out of all the first-year players who spoke on Friday, the Rutgers safety seemed the most eager to dive headfirst into his weighty defensive playbook.
“My approach to learning new things is fun. This is what I want to do the rest of my life. I like learning,” Harmon said. “I like learning new schemes. I like learning more about football. So it’s not really daunting. It’s more fun. It’s more of a great challenge that I want to conquer to learn the playbook as fast as I can.”
That kind of attitude may be exactly why Bill Belichick “reached” for Harmon, as so many draft analysts have claimed he did. It’s clear at this point that Belichick wants to bring in serious, smart football players. And Harmon gave off that exact vibe.
It was also clear how much Harmon loves football. He’s not the kind of player who only participates in the sport because he’s good at it, or because he will make a lot of money doing it. Harmon has known since he was four years old that he wanted to play in the NFL.
“My grandfather, who is deceased now, used to take me to Delaware State football games, Harmon said. “He was an alumni there and he had a little box seat we used to go there every weekend they had a football game. And I realized then and there that this is what I want to do the rest of my life.”
Harmon has steep competition if he wants to play defense this season. Devin McCourty, who mentored Harmon at Rutgers, will likely be the starting free safety (barring a move back to cornerback), while the strong safety spot is up for grabs between last year’s contributors, Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson, newcomer Adrian Wilson and Harmon.
Special teamer and 2012 sixth-rounder Nate Ebner is also still on the team, and rookie free agent Kanorris Davis will be competing for a spot, as well.
If Harmon wants to get on the field early, proving he’s adept on special teams may be the best way for him to do so. It seems Harmon will be willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.
“I’m just trying to come in and just find my role to help them win the football games,” said Harmon.
Harmon is ready to take the lessons he learned from former Rutgers coach and current Buccaneers coach (and Belichick’s friend) Greg Schiano to help him adapt to the NFL. Fortunately, much of what Schiano preached is similar to the advice Belichick dishes out to his players.
“Be a good football player, be a film room junkie, that’s what Coach Schiano taught me at Rutgers University,” Harmon said. “He definitely instilled great values in us when it comes to being a football player — learning playbook, writing notes, being in the film room. And that’s something I’m very appreciative of Coach Schiano.”
Rookie mini-camp is just the first step in a long journey for many of these players. But Belichick singled out Tom Brady, Ryan Wendell and Stephen Neal as players who stood out during these spring practices before going on to have successful (and in one case, legendary) careers.