TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — At the end of the day, Damien Harris just had too much ‘Bama in him.
The Richmond, Ky., native has become an integral part of the Alabama program during his three years on campus, and he wasn’t ready to leave even with the potential of NFL dollars waiting for him.
“I just wanted to be a part of this program for another year,” Harris said Thursday. “I could give you guys a lot of ‘Xs and Os’ for why I should leave or why I should stay, but at the end of the day I felt very blessed to be a part of this program for the last three years.
“When I was making my decision, that was kind of what was heavy on my mind. This program has been so good to me, and the people who have been a part of this program have done a lot for me and I’m incredibly thankful. I just want another year of this. I want to enjoy it for another year.”
Harris added that he hopes the opportunity to play in the NFL will be there next year, but he’s focused on becoming a better leader for this team.
Harris said it wasn’t a hard decision, which he believes is a “testament to how much he appreciates being a part of this team.”
Harris has a chance to become the first Alabama player to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. He’s rushed for 2,197 yards and 14 touchdowns during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. Harris is 1,394 yards off Derrick Henry’s career rushing record.
“To be politically correct, no. But I’d be lying to you if I told you I had never thought about it,” Harris said of potentially breaking records. “At the end of the day, that’s not what motivates me. What motivates me is being a part of this team, being a leader for this team and being the best player that I can be to help this team be successful.”
Along with his leadership and playmaking ability, one of the best things about Harris is he doesn’t have a ton of mileage at this point in his career. He’s carried the ball only 326 times at Alabama heading into his senior season. Henry rushed 395 times during his Heisman Trophy-winning junior season.
Another plus for Harris is that there are plenty of other running backs who can help carry the load this season as Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs and Brian Robinson all return.
“One thing I need to improve on as far as being a leader for this team is how I affect other people,” Harris said. “I’ve been a lead-by-example kind of guy, not super vocal. There comes a point in time where you have to do what’s best for the team, and do what you can do to impact the guys on this team in a positive way.
“Whether that’s me becoming more vocal or continuing to lead by example, I’m ready to do it to enhance my leadership role on this team.”