The Hitman has made his final tackle.
Former New York Jets linebacker David Harris, second on the team’s career tackles list, retired Friday night after 11 NFL seasons. Harris made the announcement in a statement released on Twitter by his agents .
“After 11 years of having played the greatest team sport at its highest level,” Harris wrote, “it’s now time for me to announce my retirement from the NFL.”
Always understated and humble off the field, Harris was an intense presence on it – earning the nickname “The Hitman” for his penchant for punishing ball carriers.
He spent his first 10 seasons with the Jets, who drafted him in the second round out of Michigan in 2007. Harris was surprisingly released by New York last June and signed to a two-year contract by AFC East rival New England a few weeks later.
The 34-year-old Harris was mostly a role player with the Patriots, appearing in just 10 regular-season games, and he did not play in any postseason games, including the Super Bowl against Philadelphia.
Harris’ retirement saves the Patriots $2.1 million on their salary cap next season.
He made his mark with the Jets, though, leading the team in tackles in nine of his 10 seasons with them. Harris was also a locker-room leader who was adamant about leading by example with an unquestioned work ethic rather than with his words.
“Players like David Harris don’t come around very often,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said in a statement posted on the team’s website . “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’ preference to stay out of the spotlight in New York was a rarity for a player of his skill level and accomplishments. He never sought endorsements or acclaim, but Harris was recognized for his play on the field around the league. He was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl after both the 2009 – when he was also a second-team All-Pro pick – and 2011 seasons.
Harris was also a playmaking force as the middle linebacker in Rex Ryan’s top defenses during the Jets’ runs to the AFC championship game in the 2009 and ‘10 seasons. He was twice selected by his teammates as the Jets’ Dennis Byrd “Most Inspirational Player” and was the team MVP in 2010.
“David Harris operated at the highest standard for both performance and professionalism and is as fine a person as you will ever meet,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “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. I wish him and his family the absolute best that life has to offer and they will always have a home with the New York Jets.”
Former teammates also took to social media to congratulate Harris on his retirement.
“A BOSS!” former running back Thomas Jones wrote on Twitter. “Congratulations to ‘The Hitman’ David Harris on a great NFL career. Was an honor to share the field with him. Quiet assassin!”
Added former offensive lineman Damien Woody, currently an ESPN analyst: “Congrats to David ‘Hitman’ Harris on a stellar 11-yr career. Not much for talking but was definitely bout that action boss!”
Despite Harris’ short stint in New England, he still made a lasting impression on his teammates there. Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy even lobbied for the Jets to someday induct him into their Ring of Honor.
“S/O to my last OG David Harris!” Van Noy wrote. “Congrats! It was only a year but the impact he had on me will be forever. True professional and the best part about him is he’s truly selfless! Always looking to help and never complained. True leader! Green team better give him a green coat!!!”
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