Allen Park — You can’t pick former Patriots in the NFL Draft, but the New England connection continued for the Lions in Friday’s third round.
Safety Will Harris, whom the Lions traded up to No. 81 to select, played his college ball in the region at Boston College, a campus familiar to those in the Detroit organization.
There, Harris played two seasons with Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who was on the defensive staff, coaching the line.
“I can’t wait to go back to work for him,” Harris said. “This is the best day of my life.”
To select Harris, the Lions swapped third-rounders with Minnesota, moving up seven spots and throwing in the second of their two sixth-round picks (204th overall) for Saturday.
ESPN’s Todd McShay called Harris a “tackling machine” after 225 career stops in Chestnut Hill.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he went to Boston College and scouted him personally this season and said he was one of the best players at Senior Bowl week.
In conversations with BC staff members he knows well, Quinn said Harris was the first player mentioned, despite a smaller profile than teammates, two which were picked earlier than Harris this weekend.
“His leadership ability, his love for football. This guy is a passionate football guy,” Quinn said about the characteristics trumpeted by Harris’ coaches. “This guy was the heartbeat of their team.”
Harris was a captain at Boston College and will replace Glover Quin, who was a steady leader for six seasons before his offseason release.
Harris said he loved football from the start, and celebrated his selection at home in Atlanta with his family, including his father, Willie Harris, a former draft pick.
The elder Harris was a wide receiver at Mississippi State, drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo in 1993, but did not appear in a game.
After Harris was drafted, Willie told his son now the real work begins.
“I kid you not, the first thing he tells me when I get drafted is, ‘I’ve got the footballs in the trunk, we’re going back to work tomorrow,’” Will Harris said. “I’m ready to rock.”
Harris had just five career interceptions and was a third-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as a senior. As a junior, he led the nation with four fumble recoveries.
At the combine, Harris ran 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, fourth out of 22 safeties who ran. He was fifth in the three-cone and short-shuttle drills for his position at the combine. His 20 reps at bench press ranked tied for third.
Harris was measured at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, and Quinn said his special teams coverage skills played a part in the selection.
“That’s something that’s part of the equation is having different types of skillsets in the secondary,” Quinn said.
The draft continues at noon on Saturday with rounds 4-7. The Lions have single picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and a pair in the seventh.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.
Meet Will Harris
Notable stats: Only five interceptions in four college seasons, but 225 tackles.
Analysis:Another culture selection for the Lions, Harris was a team captain at Boston College, a place the Lions organization knows very well. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was on staff for two of Harris' seasons in Chestnut Hill. A four-year starter in college, Harris impressed across the board at the combine. Bob Quinn said he expects Harris to be able to back up several positions in the secondary right away, a trait valued by the organization, in addition to a projected coverage role on special teams.