|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|David Harris made the most of his opportunity and was selected to numerous All-Rookie teams.|
New Yorkers with long sports memories might recall the tale of Wally Pipp, the famed Yankees first baseman who was benched by manager Miller Huggins in 1925 in an attempt to shake up the lineup. Pipp was replaced by Lou Gehrig who went on to play a record 2,130 consecutive games.
New York Jets fans might find familiarity in the rise of David Harris. The second-round pick out of Michigan filled in for injured starter Jonathan Vilma at linebacker last season and was so impressive for the Jets, that he will likely be the starter for years to come.
With Vilma out, Harris became a starter, which is almost fitting because it was a knee injury that nearly derailed his career.
Harris excelled at football, earning all-state honors from the Detroit Free Press as a senior linebacker at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. He set a school record with 158 tackles as a junior, and also was an effective runner as the team's fullback.
Harris participated in track and field, too. The combination of size and speed made him one of the top prospects in the state, eventually leading him to accept a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan.
A knee injury forced Harris to redshirt as a freshman, as the rehabilitation took nearly two years. He played sparingly during the next two seasons and didn't become a full-time starter until his junior year. Harris started to flash signs that he could be an NFL player when he led the Wolverines with 88 tackles in 2005, and improved on those numbers with 103 tackles during his senior season.
In 2006, Harris earned All-Big Ten honors and was selected as the team's most valuable player along with running back Mike Hart. Harris also was a second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, and Rivals.com.
Harris was projected to go anywhere from the late second round to the fourth round prior to the draft. However, the fifth-year senior surprised scouts when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds. He drew great interest from the Jets, thanks in part to new linebackers coach Jim Herrmann, who served as Michigan's defensive coordinator the previous nine seasons.
"David is someone we have done a lot of work on. He played for Coach [Jim] Herrmann, our linebacker coach," said Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "He played obviously in a big program and is another player we feel will fit in with what we are trying to do."
Harris stepped in like a five-year veteran when called to replace Vilma in Week 8 against Buffalo. The rookie registered 17 tackles and a sack. He followed that with a 24-tackle performance against the Redskins the following week.
Harris earned varioius all-rookie awards after finishing the season with 127 tackles and five sacks. His breakout performance made Vilma expendable and the team sent the veteran to New Orleans in the offseason, meaning that Harris will be the middle for the Jets in 2008.