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O'HARA: Harris turning to veteran teammates for advice during rookie year

By the luck of the draft, rookie safety Will Harris landed with familiar names when the Detroit Lions took him in the third round.

Harris didn’t root for teams when he played high school ball in Connecticut, or when he played at Boston College, where he was a four-year player and a starter his last three seasons.

He wasn’t even a die-hard fan of the New England Patriots.

“But at the same time, I didn’t follow one specific team,” Harris said after Saturday’s training camp practice.

It was a different story with players. He liked to watch the individual stars, and he followed the Lions as a group.

“All the time,” he said. “Growing up I watched a lot of Ed Reed – guys who made a killing in the NFL. Guys like Earl Thomas.

“I always knew about the secondary in Detroit. It was kind of surreal, getting me in the locker room with these guys. I always knew about Quandre DiggsDarius Slay.”

It hasn’t been just a meet and greet for Harris. From the offseason workouts through Thursday night’s first preseason game – a 31-3 loss to the Patriots at Ford Field – he has gone to the veteran safeties for help in his transition from the college game to the NFL.

“Those guys are a tremendous resource for me,” he said. “I try to take advantage of that every day – asking those guys questions. Especially the older guys.”

He’s also gone to Tracy Walker, because of the similarity in how their careers began. Like Harris, Walker was a third-round draft pick in 2018. Walker already is projected to start this year.

“When I first came in, I tried to ask him a lot about how he went about things,” Harris said.

As he prepared for the first preseason game against the Patriots – and put to use his 4.41-second speed in the 40-yard dash that was part of the reason the Lions drafted him – the best advice he got from his teammates on what to expect was the simplest.

“They all said, ‘Just play football,” Harris said. “I know it seems simple, but there’s a lot – especially as a rookie player your first game – that you can get caught up in.

“We put in the work and the preparation throughout these days, so just go out there and let it loose. Just play loose – play football. Stay true to our techniques -- and play hard.

“That’s what they told me.”

It wasn’t a good game for the Lions, but for Harris it was a starting point.

“It's a learning experience, going out there,” he said. “There are a lot of things I wish I could have done differently. That’s why you watch the film. That's the purpose for this week. We’re still in camp mode, grinding out every day.

“I’m just watching the film from the Patriots game and moving on. It’s a great experience, playing in your first NFL game.”

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