June 04, 2018
The shelf life of NFL runnings backs is notoriously short, with few exceptions of long-term greatness. The wear and tear of such a physical position, not to mention teams choosing a committee-based approach, means the average back lasts just 2.57 years in the league.
For former Eagles running back Jerome Harrison, the end of football came under very different and far more daunting circumstances.
Harrison, a Michigan native and product of Washington State University, began his career with the Cleveland Browns in 2006. He was used sparingly for three years until he had a breakout season in 2009, rushing for 862 yards and five touchdowns. He made history against the Kansas City Chiefs that year when he ran for 286 yards on 34 carries, breaking Jim Brown's franchise single-game rushing record (he was 10 yards shy of Adrian Peterson's NFL record set in 2007).
Buried on the depth chart behind Peyton Hillis and Jamal Lewis, Harrison was traded to the Eagles during the 2010 season and became a solid contributor. He spent the following season in Detroit before the Eagles again acquired him via trade in 2011.
This time, something went wrong during his physical. A doctor spotted an unusual mass on his brain stem, soon identified as a benign tumor. Medical experts were stunned that Harrison could even walk and talk. They told him he needed emergency surgery.
What was supposed to be a three-hour surgery became a nightmare for Harrison and his family, as recounted in a special CBS segment that was later updated and used to promote the 2013 Governor's Fitness Award in Michigan.
Not long after Harrison's surgery, doctors found a blood clot in his brain. He suffered a stroke and was declared a quadriplegic with paralyzed vocal cords.
Harrison, a father of two, spent several years proving doctors wrong about his capacity to walk, talk, eat on his own and write again. This past weekend, Harrison shared an inspirational message on Twitter, describing the fundamental source of strength he found in his recovery: a positive attitude.