- Signed by Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2012
- Started 48 consecutive games w/Jets from 2013-15
- 193 career tackles w/Jets
- Pro Football Focus‘ No. 1 run defender in 2015
With Damon Harrison, we reach our first undrafted player on this list. In many ways, Harrison shows what it means to find a true diamond in the rough.
The massive nose tackle was brought into training camp as an undrafted free agent out of the little-known William Penn University. To put how small that school is into perspective, consider that fact that there are just over 1,000 students currently enrolled at the university. Now consider that they are not even a part of the NCAA, instead competing in the non-affiliated NAIA.
To say that Harrison’s road to success in the NFL was a longshot would be an understatement.
Regardless, he signed on with the Jets as an undrafted free agent and transitioned to the team’s full-time starter by just his second NFL season. Harrison would play for three seasons as the team’s starting nose tackle, quietly earning a reputation as one of the league’s best interior run defenders.
This culminated with Pro Football Focus naming Harrison the No. 1 run defender in the NFL for his stellar 2015 campaign solidifying his status as one of the very best at his position in the league.
Despite this, the Jets opted to let Harrison walk in free agency with money being tight after the hefty extension given to Muhammad Wilkerson. The William Penn product signed with the crosstown rival New York Giants and continued to build his legacy as perhaps the best true nose tackle in the league.
Allowing Harrison to leave via free agency is one of the Jets’ biggest regrets in the past couple decades, but it doesn’t take away from his fantastic play in the three seasons he started for the team.
Still, Harrison’s story with the Jets will always be a tale of what could have been rather than what was. That’s just the sad reality of the situation.
Next: No. 13