After watching his team win a Super Bowl from the sidelines, Harris is in pursuit of his first NFL start.
New England Patriots defensive end Trent Harris felt it greater than ever before as he held the Vince Lombardi Trophy moments after Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta: the desire to achieve greatness in the NFL.
Many miles away from his hometown of Winter Park and Winter Park High School, Harris has been chasing that dream. The 23-year-old athlete didn’t get a chance to suit up during the Super Bowl, but the atmosphere and energy inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Patriots won a sixth title fueled a fire within.
“I’m just blessed to be in the position that I’m at with my first year out of college,” Harris said. “Although I didn’t get to play in the actual game, just being there in that environment on a Super Bowl-winning team was a surreal experience. Not many people get to experience that, so I try to take it all in. Going to the Super Bowl and not being able to play the game is definitely motivation. … It’s nice to win it, but it would be better if you’re on the field.”
Harris has had his sights set on cracking the roster of the New England Patriots since he was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in May 2018. The Winter Park Wildcat continues to work — awaiting the day he is called up to his first NFL game.
He was put on the team’s practice squad in September — but not before he made an appearance with the team in the preseason. That showing included a clutch play by Harris in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, where he strip-sacked quarterback Kevin Hogan late in the fourth quarter. The ball was recovered by then-teammate Geneo Grissom, who returned it 53 yards before getting brought down at the 1-yard line. The Patriots scored a touchdown shortly after and ended up winning the game 26-17.
It’s been a magical ride being immersed in the NFL landscape — and Harris isn’t taking any of it for granted, he said.
“I thank God for all his blessings and opportunities he’s given me,” he said.
Harris remembers his years at Winter Park High School well. According to Patriots.com, the class of 2013 graduate picked up 69 tackles and 14 sacks as a senior and 50 tackles and 11 sacks as a junior during his high-school career. The years Harris wore the orange and black taught him the importance of hard work, how to work as a team and knowing your teammates.
“It obviously had a huge part in the player I am today,” Harris said. “The coaching staff there will get the best out of you. They prepare you real well for college.
“We had a very close senior class, and that’s why I feel like we were pretty successful my senior year,” he said. “We just knew how to work and the coaches did a good job getting us ready. We’re just like one big family. Pretty much all the guys from my senior year — we’re real close with each other now still to this day.”
Harris continued to develop as a player at the University of Miami, where he picked 126 tackles, 15 sacks, three passes defended, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble over a span of 44 games. That stretch of his development also taught Harris how to deal with adversity — and the importance of fighting through it.
Harris did — he came off the bench in his senior year and put up his best season as a Hurricane.
“For athletes in general, things aren’t always going to go your way, so you just (have to) keep your head on straight and control what you can control and keep working,” Harris said.
The Miami grad hopes to continue pushing his game to the next level and become stronger and faster. With a year of experience on the practice squad under his belt, Harris knows he’s not an NFL rookie anymore.
“I feel a little more confident, and I’m here to do everything and put myself in a position to try to make that roster,” he said.
Harris said he is grateful for everything he has accomplished so far — and how close he is to that dream of playing at the NFL level.
None of it would have been possible without the love and support of his girlfriend, Abriana; his brother, Troy; his sister, Taylor; and his parents, William and Betsy — along with every coach, teammate and friend who’s ever pushed him to be better.
“They’ve been a big part of who I am,” Harris said.