A 32-year-old ex-NFL backup with a history of injuries would be unlikely to see the gridiron again. With the second iteration of the XFL, the dream remains alive for a certain tight end.
Team 1: Eagles – 3 seasons (2010-12)
Clay Harbor was a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He played a secondary role behind Brent Celek for three seasons. He produced some good numbers for a backup and was a dependable special teams contributor until the injury bug got in the way.
In a prime time game December 13, 2012, Harbor moved up the depth chart after Celek was sidelined with a concussion. In the second quarter, he suffered multiple back fractures in a gang tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Incredibly, he remained in the game with two additional catches. Despite the pain, he was determined to help the team despite risks to himself. “Just sharp pains every step you take. I just stayed in there for my teammates and played through it. I was trying to act like I was a little healthier than I was so I could stay in there. I don’t want to make excuses; I had the ball in my hands.” He went on injured reserve after his condition was fully diagnosed.
Listed as fourth on the tight end depth chart, Harbor worked as a versatile role player at wide receiver and fullback (he was a wide receiver his freshman year at Missouri State). Under new coach Chip Kelly his skill set was not a good match for the scheme, and he was released at the end of training camp missing the last cut for the 53 man roster.
Team 2: Jaguars – 3 seasons (2013-15)
He immediately found employment with the Jacksonville Jaguars the next day who signed him off waivers. Reminiscent of the Celek situation in Philadelphia, Harbor stepped up after injuries to Marcedes Lewis and Allen Reisner, emerging as an effective blocking tight end.
“We liked his athleticism at the tight end spot but we didn’t know how he would be at the point of attack and he showed up at the point of attack,” coach Gus Bradley said. “He did a nice job.”
He made a solid impact and signed a two year extension after playing every game in 2013, but fractured his ankle in week 17.
Looking for a better blocker, the Jaguars allowed Harbor to become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expired. During the off-season, he underwent hernia surgery, but he didn’t have to wait long for a new team.
Team 3: Patriots – 3 weeks (2016)
Recalling Harbors’ skills from in a game against the Jaguars, Bill Belichick added him to the New England Patriots roster with a two-year contract in April 2016.
Unable to crack a deep talent pool of tight ends, Harbor was mostly limited to special teams and only lasted for three games with zero catches.
Team 4: Lions – 12 weeks (2016)
His unemployment beginning October 3, 2016 lasted only one day and Harbor was picked up by the Detroit Lions after losing two their tight ends to injuries before opening day. He was in the lineup primarily for blocking. Due to the limited contribution, TE Eric Ebron’s return from a hamstring injury Harbor was let go March 9, 2017. He finished the season with no touchdowns and three catches.
Team 5: Saints – 1 season (2017)
His multi-dimensional talents caught the eye of the New Orleans Saints who signed him on May 14, 2017, only to see the opportunity go up in smoke with a torn wrist ligament that placed him on injured reserve on August 28, ending his season before it even started.
Team 6: “The Bachelorette” – 1 season (2018)
During his football hiatus, Harbor managed an embarrassing incident when he reinjured his wrist while playing football on an episode of the ABC series “The Bachelorette”. Perhaps realizing his priorities needed adjustment, he broke up with his “date” so he could focus on healing and returning to football.
Confident his wrist was fully healed, Harbor had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills on July 23, 2018, but no deal was offered after he suffered an abdominal injury.
With no NFL offers available, he’s been training in his Chicago hometown, practicing with Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson who hopes to be under center in the NFL someday.
Harbor seized the opportunity to show off his skills at the XFL’s last showcase in St. Louis. Realizing this probably his last shot as a football player, he’s given himself three months to reach a conclusion on his future.
His three-month timeline is running out, but he’s determined to persevere. ” [I] never have turned down a chance to compete and do what I love and never will!” said Harbor.
That’s what the XFL is all about.
What do you think Harbor’s chances are? Was it a mistake to look for love on a TV show instead of looking for reps on the practice field? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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