TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Damien Harris was one of 15 Alabama football players to graduate this past weekend at the university’s commencement. And for a player that has won two national championships, three SEC titles and rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, walking across the stage at Coleman Coliseum topped his list of experiences in college.
“It was my greatest accomplishment to date,” Harris said. “All the national championships we won, all the games we won are special. But graduating, getting my degree, that was the ultimate, ultimate celebration. My family was here, they’re all happy, they’re excited. So, it was just a great time.”
Harris chose to return for his senior season instead of entering his name in the 2018 NFL Draft. Wanting to be a part of this Crimson Tide program one more year was a significant reason for that decision. But so was earning his undergraduate degree before leaving for the league.
“It was one of the more important reasons why I came back,” Harris said. “My degree is something no one can ever take away from me, and the opportunity to come back and get it was something special for me and my family.”
Before graduating, Harris and Alabama’s other seniors won their 54th game when the Crimson Tide defeated Georgia, 35-28, in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1. The group has now posted a record of 54-3 (.947) to surpass Alabama’s 2017 senior class (53-5, .914) for the most wins by a senior class in NCAA history. That was new but welcome news for the running back.
“I actually didn’t know that until you said that,” Harris said. “We’ve accomplished a lot of incredible things here together, and it’s been an incredible experience. Obviously, why I came back for another year. A huge sense of pride when it comes to all of the things we’ve accomplished. These are things I will look back on for the rest of my life.”
These Alabama seniors separated themselves from any other in college football, and Harris has an opportunity to do the same in the Tide’s record books. He will need, one, a win in the Orange Bowl and, two, two big games, but he is 229 yards away from becoming the first running back in Alabama’s storied football history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
But solely focused on helping the team any way he can — not how close he is to the record.
“Not really. I always kind of like to look at the end and see where I’m at,” Harris said. “I don’t go into every game going ‘I need this many yards, I need this many yards,’ you know? It would be nice to get those yards, but you know, I’m ok with that. … Like I said it would be nice to do that, but ultimately I’d rather win than get 1,000 yards.”
And it’s just another reason why he cherishes his time at Alabama.
“It was an incredible honor,” Harris said. “Seeing the guys who have their hand- and foot-print at Denny Chimes and being among that group is truly special. The guys on the team who I was voted captain with — Christian, Hale and Ross — those are all great guys. So, from our teammates, and for people to see us as leaders, to put us in that category was truly special.”
Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports’ personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).
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