Detroit Lions nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison had an inspiring message for young athletes at the I Told the Storm community weekend, which included a 7-on-7 football tournament on Friday and a Saturday camp session.
“I grew up in St. Edwards Project here in New Iberia,” Harrison said. “I got cut from my middle school team twice, once here and once after I moved to Lake Charles. I wasn’t the most athletic kid.”
Although he wasn’t able to make the roster in junior high, Harrison stayed the course and his persistence eventually paid off.
“One thing...I never gave up,” he said. “No matter how many times I was told ‘No,’ I just kept going. I ended up playing football my senior year at Lake Charles-Boston. I was part of the last graduating class at the school.”
Harrison wasn’t recruited to play college football. Instead, he sought out a school that would give him a chance.
“I sent emails looking for a place to play, an opportunity,” he said. “I didn’t even have a Rivals profile. I was on nobody’s radar, but it ended up working out.
“Northwest Mississippi Community College emailed me back. From there, I ended up at William Penn and here I am today.”
Harrison was an undrafted free agent following his stint at William Penn, a tiny private college with an enrollment of 1,050 students tucked away in remote Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“It’s not always the five-star guys who end up having productive careers in the NFL,” said Harrison, a first-team all-pro in 2016 who led the league in run-stop percentage from 2013 to 2016.
“It doesn’t matter where you go to school. It matters what you do when you get to that school.”
A first-team NAIA All-American during his senior year at William Penn, the 6-3, 355-pounder got his nickname from his propensity to constantly devour food during position meetings with the New York Jets, the team that initially launched his career.
Harrison formed the “I Told the Storm” charity to empower disadvantaged youth in both his current team’s city, as well as youth that reside in Louisiana.
“This is our third annual I Told the Storm Foundation community weekend and the second year of the 7-on-7 tournament,” Harrison said. “At first, It was just about getting all the schools in the area involved.
“Our hope is to have this grow, move to a bigger arena, and get more teams in the state involved. We’ve been getting more sponsors involved, and in the future it will become much bigger.”
Last season, Harrison was named Week 4 Community MVP by the NFL Players Association after he donated $10,000 to two organizations in North Carolina to help with Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.
In turn the NFLPA donated $10,000 to a foundation or charity of Harrison’s choice, which helped him provide big prizes to the top two teams at the 7-on-7 tournament, which were Westgate and Thibodaux.
In addition, Westgate sophomore wide receiver Jordan Doucet won an XBox One after being named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
“It’s all about the kids,” Harrison said. “There’s no telling what a kid might be doing right now if he wasn’t out here. I’m sure his coach would be having him doing some other stuff, but just to have something for them to look forward to every year, that’s what it’s all about.”
Harrison has a mantra that has stuck with him over the years.
“Never let anybody put limitations on your life,” he said.
“You can be anything you want to be as long as you work towards it. There’s no such thing as ‘I can’t’ or ‘I couldn’t.’ That’s my one saying.”