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We Came Here to Win

Jan 6 2017
Photo by
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Photo by
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The New York Giants made some big moves in free agency during the last off-season, signing DT Damon (Snacks) Harrison and CB Janoris (Jackrabbit) Jenkins. The two proceeded to help lead the Giants to an 11–5 record and a playoff berth. We asked Damon and Janoris to reflect on the year as they prepare for the postseason for the first time in their careers.


Damon Harrison
I have the same routine before every game. First off, I don’t take the team bus to the stadium from our hotel. I get together early with Landon Collins, Johnathan Hankins and JPP, and we take the medical bus — the one that takes the trainers, team employees and media. We take it because it’s the first bus to go. It leaves about four of five hours before kickoff. The other buses are usually an hour or two behind. We like to get there as early as possible.

Janoris Jenkins
It’s true. By the time the rest of us get there, you guys have already been there for a couple of hours.

Damon
And once we get there, I like to take my time. I meet with the trainers and get taped up or worked on if I need work done. Then, about 50 minutes before we take the field for our first stretch, I walk out the tunnel and go all the way down to the far end of the bench and just sit down by myself in the empty stadium, my gospel music in my ears. Donnie McClurkin, Tamela Mann, Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin — gospel just gets me calm, man. I love it.

Janoris
Gospel? I’m more of an A Boogie/Kodak Black guy.

Damon
Yessir. I’m all gospel. It just gets me in the zone, gets my mind right.

So I just sit there on the edge of the bench and I look around the stadium at all the empty seats, knowing they’re gonna be full in a couple of hours. It still feels surreal to me. I mean, I’m living out a childhood dream. I’m living in a fantasy world, but this is reality. I played college ball in the NAIA — William Penn University out in Oskaloosa, Iowa. So playing in the NFL — in New York — is still shocking to me.

And I’ve learned that the more appreciation you have for something, the harder you’ll work to keep it. I try to remind myself of that when I’m sitting out there before every game.

snacks3Evan Pinkus/AP Images

Janoris
That’s right. For me and Snacks here, this is our first year with the Giants, and it’s our first trip to the playoffs. I spent four years with the Rams in St. Louis and he spent the last four years with the Jets. Now, coming to the Giants, it’s a whole different mindset. Nothing against the Rams. I had some great years there. It’s just that with the Giants, it’s all about winning and putting another trophy in the case. Everyone has that mindset, from the front office, to the players, to the fans.

It’s about winning now, not later, and cherishing each moment along the way.

Damon
What’s been your favorite moment so far?

Janoris
Aw, man, it’s gotta be the Dallas game — the last fourth-down play to win the game. There were only about 30 seconds left and Dez ran a curl, and just as the ball got to him I knocked it down and basically ended the game.

But it was that whole game, really. I also had an interception early in the second quarter, and then the big play in the fourth quarter with just over two minutes left — the one where Dez caught the slant and I poked it out and Landon recovered.

 

Damon
Yessir. That one was nice.

For me, my favorite moment was the Dallas game in its entirety as well. Fans love to see high-scoring shootouts, but as a defensive player, I love low-scoring battles. And when Odell caught that slant and took it to the house? That play was amazing, and that’s what gave us the advantage on the scoreboard. Then it was up to us on defense to close the deal.

Janoris
That last play, though — the one where Dez dropped the ball when I knocked it away — stands out to me because it was a big moment in a crucial situation, and Coach Spagnuolo told DRC, Eli Apple and me was that we were each going to have to come up and make a play for us to win that game, and that was my play. Our whole group played that way when we needed it most.

Damon
Yessir. And when you can win the close games in this league — the low-scoring, defensive battles — you know you can win any game. So that was when I knew we really had something special here. And the fact that it was against Dallas — a divisional rival and the No. 1 seed in the NFC — let me know that we really do have the ability to beat anybody.

Janoris
So, I know why I came to New York, Snacks. But what brought you to the Giants?

Damon
Honestly? Eli Manning. That’s no disrespect to the quarterbacks I’ve played with in the past. It’s just that anytime you get the chance to play with a future Hall of Famer, you gotta take it. And I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, getting the contract was nice … but playing with Eli Manning was the icing on the cake.

Janoris
For me, it was—

Damon
It was the cold weather, wasn’t it?

Janoris
Haha. Nah, man. It definitely wasn’t the cold.

Damon
You’re a funny dude, Jackrabbit. You’re so Florida. It was what, like 60° today, and you were out there with the mask on like we were already up in Green Bay.

Janoris
I’m a Florida boy, man. I can’t help it.

Damon
So you were saying you came to New York because….

Janoris
Well, it was an easy decision, really. When I started learning about the organization, the biggest thing I noticed was that the front office, the players and the fans all feel like one big family, with football at the center of it all. Everybody’s a part of it, and it’s a tight group. The fans feel like they’re part of the team and the players feel like they’re out there playing for the fans.

ap_557055211301Al Tielemans/AP Images

Damon
That’s true. And we’re playing for each other, too. That’s what I’ve really noticed about the culture here. You can go to any other guy on the team and talk to him about stuff, whether you’re asking for advice or offering it. Like I never realized my voice or my opinion carried so much weight with people until I came here. I’ve always been a vocal guy behind the scenes, even with the Jets. But here, I’m with a group of guys who have had a lot of success in this league — guys like Jonathan Casillas, Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz — and they’re telling me they want me to speak up, or that they appreciate when I talk to them. That’s what has impressed me the most.

Janoris
You should be in the film room with the DBs, man. Ain’t nobody afraid to speak up, but it’s all love no matter what. We study together and we understand each other, so we play for one another. And we hang out and bond off the field, too. So when you have that relationships like that with the guys around you, you play that much harder for those guys.

Damon
Yessir. There are no egos. Nobody feels like they don’t need to work as hard as the next guy. And if somebody sees something that they think would make me better, I want them to tell me. “Snacks, you didn’t stay in the right gap on this play,” or “Snacks you did so-and-so wrong.” I want them to tell me so I can correct it, because a better me makes for a better team. Our guys aren’t afraid to speak up, and they want me to do the same.

Janoris
And that’s important now that we’re trying to make a Super Bowl run.

Damon
Ain’t it, though? There are a lot of guys in this locker room who were on those Super Bowl teams. Guys like Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, who are telling us guys who have never been there things like, “Don’t stress or change too much, but everything in the playoffs is turned up a notch, from the excitement to the intensity. You gotta lay everything out there because tomorrow is not guaranteed. It’s win or go home, so you gotta put your best foot forward.”

Janoris
Every play we gotta go extra. That’s what we do.

Janoris
My goals for the playoffs are simple: I want to play to the best of my ability, be a leader — and I don’t mean lead by talking, I mean lead by the way I play and set the tone — and to win one game at a time. I’m gonna try to keep it as simple as that.

Damon
Yessir. That’s a great way to look at it. I think I do a really good job of not looking past the current game and of focusing on being the best player possible. Nothing more, nothing less. If I give my absolute best, it’ll rub off on everybody else, and we’ll all be better off for it.

snacks2Evan Pinkus/AP Images

Damon
That’s something Johnathan Hankins is really good at. One thing I’ve learned from him this season is that you can’t get too high or too low. He never gets down, but he never gets too excited, either. He stays even keeled, focuses on doing his job to the best of his ability and lets the results speak for themselves. He’s always cool.

Janoris
Yeah, Hank is always cool.

Damon
And that’s how we all gotta be.

You know, Jackrabbit, we talked about the reasons we came here, and I don’t think either of us even mentioned the biggest reason.

We came here to win.

Janoris
Yessir.

Damon
And I’ll be honest with you: When I first came to the Giants, it was a transition period for me. It was just … different. I was used to doing things a certain way with the Jets, and in my time as a pro, that was the only way I knew. But as time went on and I started to grow and get better, it hit me:

In order to go somewhere you’ve never been before, you gotta do some things you’ve never done before.

I’ve never been to the Super Bowl before. I’ve never even been to the playoffs.

Janoris
Yeah, I’ve never been to the playoffs or the Super Bowl either.

Damon
And to get there, we gotta do some things we’ve never done.

Janoris
Well let’s start off by doing something we have done before and go out and play our game and win — one game at a time, just like we said.

Damon
Yessir. Let’s do it.