David Harris' long career came to an end on Friday. His next stop figures to be in the Jets' Ring of Honor.
The 34-year-old inside linebacker announced his retirement from the NFL on Friday afternoon, ending an 11-year career that included 10 terrific years with the Jets. The announcement, made with a short statement through his agent via Twitter, came less than three weeks after reaching the first Super Bowl of his career- although he wasn't activated by the New England Patriots for the game.
Despite finishing his career in New England, Harris will of course be remembered for his decade with the Jets, who took him in the second round out of Michigan, way back in 2007. The Jets had to trade up in the draft to get him, 47th overall. They sent their second, third and sixth picks to Green Bay to make the deal.
The deal paid off quickly, and for a very long time.
"Players like David Harris don't come around very often," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. "He's one of the best players and people I've ever coached. I have nothing but the highest respect for him as a person and a leader. He is an example of everything you want from a player. I am proud to have coached him and wish him and his family the best."
Harris jumped into the Jets' starting lineup by late October of his rookie season, when he took over for the injured Jonathan Vilma. He rarely came out after that. In fact, he started every game from 2009 until he missed the Jets' Week 6 game in Arizona in 2016 with a hamstring injury - a streak of 121 consecutive starts.
He finished out that season, and it appeared the Jets were getting ready to bring him back for 2017 on a reduced salary. But after talks stalled, the Jets stunned and angered many by cutting him in June - long after most teams had spent their salary cap money, and even late in a day after Harris took part in an organized team activity (OTA) with the rest of his Jets teammates.
Many ripped a move that even Jets coach Todd Bowles seemed unhappy with when he said it happened "abruptly" and "at a bad time". The move cleared $6.5 million off the Jets' salary cap books.
Harris left the Jets as the second-leading tackler in team history with 1,260 tackles in 10 seasons - nine of which he led the team. Two weeks after he was cut, he signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Patriots. But he was mostly a bit player for them, and was only active for 10 games (though he did make six starts and had 1 ½ sacks). The Patriots kept him inactive for their entire Super Bowl run.
None of that diminished what he did for the Jets, though, where for years he was one of the most popular players in the locker room and throughout the entire organization. And given the tributes that came in from his former bosses on Friday night, it sounded like a spot in the Ring of Honor was only a matter of time.
"David Harris operated at the highest standard for both performance and professionalism and is as fine a person as you will ever meet," Jets owner Christopher Johnson said. "His endurance, intelligence and reliability were his trademarks and he was always there for his teammates. With all of those qualities, what stands out most to me is the humility and selflessness with which he approached each day."
"His contributions will long be remembered as he played at the highest level on the field, matching that with a quiet confidence off it," added GM Mike Maccagnan. "All the while, he served as a humble example to countless teammates on how to be a pro."