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KNIGHTDALE — For a young man accustomed to making his own breaks, Nate Harvey’s first steps into his dream job quickly applied the career brakes. The Knightdale High alumnus suffered a season-sidelining knee injury during the opening drill of New York Giants rookie camp.
“It was a freak thing. I just started moving through the dummies, a simple thing really, and my foot must have hit wrong. I heard it,” Harvey said last week as he watched his alma mater’s seven-on-seven session at Green Hope High. “And I knew it. Knew it was bad.”
The unexpected twist of fate — and patella — hinders his motivational story, but it certainly fails to erase an eventual happy ending. Pouting, fretting, quitting just are not Harvey’s historical style.
“I’ve been told more than a few times I couldn’t make it. Just never listened,” Harvey said. “So I’m sure I will make it back better than ever.”
He made the NFL, period, by being about the best he could be. Consider Harvey only played linebacker one full football term, but earned an undrafted free agent contract at that exact position despite that fact. Of course, leading the entire NCAA in tackles for losses (25.5) and finishing among the top five in total sacks (14.5) as an East Carolina University senior last fall prompted the minor miracle.
Harvey sacked the UConn quarterback three times as well as invading the pocket for three more takedowns against Old Dominion. He dropped a signal caller at least once in eight of 11 Pirate contests. Those were attention-getting performances which brought the Giant scouts to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a professional day evaluation.
If Harvey was not quite at peak form for that inspection, surprise figured into his results. He had appealed to the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility due to his limited action as a freshman at Georgia Military College. When that petition was denied, he was left with two weeks to prepare for a blitz on the big league.
“I just kept working,” he said of the disappointment before the demonstration. “I just focused my attention on that moment and gave it my all. Because it was my one shot.”
The aim at that goal never took a straight path. At Knightdale, Harvey accepted the pigskin as a tailback and motored 2,100 yards toward 21 total touchdowns over a two-schedule span. His senior showcase included a third-round playoff visit, where Scotland High School scored on its last possession to spoil the squad’s eastern-final-entering bid.
“I cried to my mom afterward,” Harvey said. “I cried for a couple of weeks, to be honest. Yeah. That was a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a part of football.”
His part in football took a role at Georgia Military College rather than a more traditional route following the prep ranks.
“I was a little bit of a hothead, so I needed to be sent to a military college to cool off,” Harvey said. “I learned a lot of things there. And those people, I love them for it.”
He transferred to East Carolina his junior season. He remained an offensive runner on the depth chart until spring practice prior to his last go-around. The transition to defense waved a magic statistical wand. Not only did he climb to prominence, but he dominated statistically.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder impressed the Giants enough to ink a deal. That front office will now count on Harvey’s invisible qualities to pay future profits. Such an investment sounds sound, especially when Harvey speaks.
“While I’m out this year, I plan to soak up as much information as I can. Basically treat this year like a redshirt year,” he said. “I’m hurt right now, but I’m going to physical therapy and returning to 100 percent. By the next year, I’ll hopefully have a veteran mindset with a rookie fresh body.”