Lions' Harrison embraces nickname, even if he doesn't like it

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Damon Harrison

Allen Park — Damon Harrison is conflicted about his nickname, Snacks. 

The behemoth 355-pound defensive tackle, who the Detroit Lions acquired from the New York Giants in exchange for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, picked up the nickname during his rookie season with the New York Jets in 2012. 

The origins of most nicknames are pretty obvious, and as you might have guessed, Harrison acquired his for his habit of regularly snacking, often on junk food, during defensive meetings. The moniker came into being and stuck thanks to a collaborative effort from former Jets coach Rex Ryan and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.

Asked if he prefers being called Damon or Snacks, Harrison waffled. 

"Snacks is fine with me," he said Friday. "I don’t like it, but it’s fine with me."

Harrison said he grew up with other nicknames he liked more, including Boss Hogg, Heavy D and, his personal favorite, Big Dame. But Snacks has stuck and he's embraced it. It's even his Twitter handle. 

"It just hung around," Harrison said. "My mom calls me Snacks now, too."

And as Harrison points out, it could have been worse. A former Jets teammate picked up the unfortunate nickname "Lunch Meat" around the same time Harrison started being called Snacks. 

Harrison was largely low-key in his first interaction with the Detroit media. He declined to speculate on what he could bring to the team's defense, rejected the idea a move to a playoff contender energized him and said he wasn't surprised he was traded. 

But interestingly enough, he found out he was heading to Detroit while he was watching videos of The Temptations on his phone.

It turns out Harrison has an affinity for Motown music. So much so that when he was in town with the Giants for joint practices this offseason, the first thing he did when he had some free time was pop over to the Motown Museum. 

"I'm a huge Temptations guy," Harrison said. "I grew up listening to them in the household."

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Harrison's off-field interests are entertaining fodder, but what Lions fans really want to know is how quickly he'll be able to help the team. It remains to be seen whether he'll play this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but given the Lions released Sylvester Williams following Harrison's acquisition, it makes sense that he'd suit up, even if the role is limited.

"I think we’re going to have to wait and see how all of that goes down as far as his comfort level in the scheme," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "But anytime when you build a defense, just fundamental kind of thoughts, those guys that play big, play powerful, they play in a knock-back mentality up front, generally that will help clear things up for those guys behind him."

Harrison credited defensive line coach Bo Davis, and several teammates, including A'Shawn Robinson and Da'Shawn Hand, for helping get him up to speed quickly. 

"We hung out yesterday, off the field, and we went over some things in the playbook," Harrison said. "They’re trying to get me caught up, as well."

One thing working in Harrison's favor is his familiarity with some of the techniques and terminology utilized by the Lions, based on his overlap with coaches who have worked with Patricia in the past. 

On the other hand, one unfortunate aspect about the deal, at least from Harrison's perspective, is he'll miss out on a bye week this season. If he plays Sunday, and stays healthy for the remainder of the year, he could become the eighth player to play 17 games in the regular season since the league's shift to the 16-game schedule. 

"Yeah, it’s unfortunate for him without having that bye week," Patricia said. "It’s definitely something I’m conscious of just with the players in the NFL. It’s a hard thing to do as a player. So, we’ll try to do the best we can with it and work through that.

"Certainly, we just want him to feel comfortable in everything that we’re doing and feel like everything is moving in a direction where he knows that he could go out and execute properly and be productive."

The highly durable Harrison has started 87 consecutive games, the second-longest streak at his position that trails only former Lion Ndamukong Suh's 106. 

Harrison claimed to have no awareness of his start streak, and when informed said it wasn't something he cares about. 

"It’s not important at all," Harrison said. "Coming into a new situation, I just want to do whatever I can do to get on the field and help the team win."

Seahawks at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Both teams are 3-3

Line: Lions by 2

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers