D.J. Harper Interview
Sr / Boise State / RB

Updated - 4-7-13

By: Alex Khvatov


Alex Khvatov:  What are your measurements (height, weight and forty time)?

D.J. Harper:  At the Combine, I was 5’9 1/8, weight was 211 and I ran 4.5.  At the pro day that we had, I ran a 4.45.          


Alex Khvatov:  When you were coming out of high school, what programs showed interest in you? 

D.J. Harper:  I had a lot of Big 12 schools that were looking at me.  I had Oklahoma State, Kansas State and a lot of mid-major programs like Boise State, Houston, Tulane and UTEP.  But I broke my ankle going into my senior year of high school.  It was actually in the spring of my junior year.  A lot of the schools kind of backed off.  Only the mid-major programs stuck with those offers.                


Alex Khvatov:  Why did you choose Boise State?

D.J. Harper:  I wanted the opportunity to play as a true freshman.  I had a good career in high school.  I felt like I was ready to start early and have a good career in college.  Boise State was one of those teams that showed me that there was a possibility of that happening.  I wanted to see if that would come true.  I ended up getting that done.


Alex Khvatov:  Describe your career at Boise State.

D.J. Harper:  It was a long ride.  I played as a true freshman.  I had a pretty good first year.  2008 and 2009 years were kind of rough because we had a loaded backfield.  We had Ian Johnson, Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin.  In 2009, it was Jeremy and I going back and forth.  Then I got hurt back-to-back seasons.  It was devastating.  I bounced back in 2011 and 2012.  It was a good six years at Boise State.


Alex Khvatov:  How tough was it dealing with all of those injuries?  

D.J. Harper:  It was probably the toughest year in 2009.  I had an ACL injury.  I didn’t know how I was going to respond to it.  It was the toughest year mentally.  Physically, I actually bounced back fine.  In 2010, I did it again.  But I knew that I could come back from it then.  It actually gave me more time for school because I was on a four-year plan originally.  Everything actually worked out. 


Alex Khvatov:  Are you happy with the way your career ended up at Boise State?

D.J. Harper:  Absolutely, I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Everything happens for a reason.  I have matured a lot, and my body has changed.  I have gone through injuries, and you think differently as a result of it.  You grow up a little bit.  Now I feel that I am ready to take the next step. 


Alex Khvatov:  You had a breakout season as a senior, was that a blessing in the sky?

D.J. Harper:  Absolutely.  I started school really early.  I was kind of behind my years in school.  I was one of the younger guys.  On the football field, I have been able to understand the game mentally.  I was able to watch the game those two years that I sat out.  I watched more film.  I was able to break down the game.  It made the game a lot easier for me.  It helped me have a great season. 


Alex Khvatov:  Where are you training for the NFL Draft?

D.J. Harper:  Right now, I am back in my home state of Houston, Texas.  I was out in Westlake, CA training for the pro day and the combine.  I just got back home yesterday.  I am already training at Velocity Sports.  It is right down the road. 


Alex Khvatov:  Were you satisfied with your results at the Pro Day?

D.J. Harper:  I had a solid performance at the Combine.  I knew that I wanted to improve some of those times and show that it wasn’t necessarily my best performance.  I did the forty again.  I improved.  I was in the 4.45 range.  I didn’t do too well in the agility drills at the Combine.  I improved those times.  I was in the 4.0 range at the Pro Day.  My 60 yard shuttle was in the 11.6-11.8 range.  It was a great time to post.  My positional drills went really well.  It was big for me to post better numbers than at the Combine. 


Alex Khvatov:  How grueling of a process is the Scouting Combine? 

D.J. Harper:  I have dealt with adversity before having gone through the knee injuries.  But the Combine was definitely one of the toughest things that I have done in my entire life.  You put in a lot of hours talking to the coaches, physical testing and mental tests.  I had an average of five to six hours of sleep per night.  I didn’t get any more than that.  You have a lot of stress that you are dealing with.  It was tough.


Alex Khvatov:  Did you get to bond with any of the players from the Scouting Combine? 

D.J. Harper:  Our whole running back group was together through the entire time.  We were going through station to station and drill to drill.  I actually shared a room with Landry Jones (QB from Oklahoma).  We played them in 2007 before I got there.  We talked about the big bowl game when Oklahoma played Boise State.  It was definitely a great experience meeting other great players. 


Alex Khvatov:  What was the toughest question that you were asked in Indy by a scout or a coach?

D.J. Harper:  Probably when they asked me about why they should draft me.  They asked what separates me from the rest of my competition.  You want to say so many things about your strengths.  But you just want to find that middle ground when answering questions like that.


Alex Khvatov:  What are your strengths?

D.J. Harper:  Vision and just being a great all-around back.  I can do everything well.  I have good speed.  I have great hands out of the backfield.  I had to learn how to pass protect while being at Boise State.  We ran the spread offense as well as from center.  I have done a little bit of everything being in multiple offenses.  I have seen it all.


Alex Khvatov:  What areas of your game do you need to improve upon?

D.J. Harper:  I think that it is just decision making.  I was somewhat indecisive on the field at times in college.  I need to be more decisive.  Some of the scouts have said the same thing to me. 


Alex Khvatov:  What is the highlight of your career?

D.J. Harper:  Our first game of my senior season was against Michigan State.  It was a rough game for me.  The game definitely didn’t go the way that I wanted it to go.  It was my first game being the featured back.  We were able to bounce back as a team and as an offense the very next week.  I went for like 180 yards and four touchdowns.  I had three on the ground and one receiving.  It was great to bounce back.  The second highlight was our senior game.  It was the very first play of the game.  I went 80 yards.  It was a big moment as well with all of my family there. 


Alex Khvatov:  What has made Boise State so successful in recent years?   

D.J. Harper:  Coach Petersen has done a tremendous job hiring a great staff.  Also the program has recruited the right type of players.  If you go down the list, it’s not like we have had 5-star recruits.  He just recruits guys that have a chip on their shoulder.  Guys that want to go out there and prove themselves.  When you get a group of guys that are extremely hard working and want to prove themselves, it adds up to success. 


Alex Khvatov:  You were born and raised in Texas, what was it like going to a place like Boise, Idaho?

D.J. Harper:  It was different.  Houston is a very big city.  There are a lot of things going on.  I was going to Boise State for a specific goal and that was to get my education.  I got my degree.  It was nice being in a college town.  It was easier to focus on what I wanted to do.  It was great.  You have four different seasons.  I didn’t see any snow in Texas.  It was really emotional leaving here after the Pro Day.  I had six amazing years.  I don’t know how often I will visit here. 


Alex Khvatov:  How awesome was it to play on the blue football field at the home stadium?

D.J. Harper:  It was weird when I took my recruiting trip there.  It was snowing then, so I didn’t get to see it.  But when I came back in the summertime, it was like one of those sites.  I have seen this on TV many times, but I got to see it in person that it is really blue.  You have to actually see it, to believe it.  It was crazy the first couple of days.  But then after we started the summer conditioning drills, the only thing that was on my mind was getting through the next rep.  I was dying when I first got there.  It was different seeing opponents coming to our field and just walking around.  They were just looking at the ground.  It is cool to see.


Alex Khvatov:  Who is the toughest player that you have faced during your career? 

D.J. Harper:  I would actually have to go with that whole Michigan State’s defense.  The defensive ends and the linebackers were great.  Their whole defense was loaded.  It seemed like we couldn’t do anything on offense that game.  I watched film of that game.  They had some amazing players. 


Alex Khvatov:  What is your favorite NFL team?

D.J. Harper:  I have always been a Ravens fan.  I love the passion that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have.  Both of those guys have moved on, but they signify how football should be played.  I always loved that whole team. 


Alex Khvatov:  How tough was it to see Ray Lewis retire and Ed Reed sign with the Texans?

D.J. Harper:  It was weird.  Ray Lewis has played for such a long time.  He could still probably play right now.  I know that he could.  Eventually, there is a time when everybody has to hang up their cleats.  It was good to see that he was able to do it on his own terms instead of being forced out.  He knew that he was ready to move on.  Ed Reed is still getting a great opportunity.  He will obviously play with the Texans.  But he still has an opportunity to play the game.  He is not done yet. 


Alex Khvatov:  What will you miss the most about college football?

D.J. Harper:  Probably just the bond that you have with those guys on the team.  I was there for six years.  You meet a lot of fun people.  I was back from my Pro Day and I saw a lot of those guys having their spring ball practice.  It is really just a process and a bond with those guys.   


Alex Khvatov:  Do you feel slighted for not being selected to the Senior Bowl?  

D.J. Harper:  A little bit, but everything happens for a reason.  I was fortunate enough to go to another All-Star game.  I played in the Texas versus The Nation Game.  There was great talent at that game.  There are players that come out of that game all the time and go to the NFL.  It was very competitive there.  All of the scouts that were at the Senior Bowl also attended our game.  I was still fortunate to go the Combine.  I still got the same amount of exposure.  It wasn’t really too big of a deal. 


Alex Khvatov:  Which underclassman on your team should we keep an eye on in the future?

D.J. Harper:  We have a lot of great talent there.  Let’s keep it in the running back family.  I think that Jay Ajayi had a great season this past year along with me.  I think that he will do some big things.  He is super excited about next season after talking to him.  I would say that guy. 


Alex Khvatov:  When did Boise State become such a running back factory? 

D.J. Harper:  We have had some great backs even before my time.  But I feel that Ian Johnson was kind of like a gateway for the rest of the guys.  After Ian, Doug Martin and I came through.  We had Jeremy Avery.  We have Jay Ajayi now.  More talented backs have been added to the roster since I have left.  They have some talent there. 


Alex Khvatov:  Did you expect that your former teammate Doug Martin would have such a successful rookie campaign with the Bucs?

D.J. Harper:  Absolutely.  I was with that guy for a long time.  I know his work ethic and his drive.  This is what he always wanted to do.  I knew that he would put it together.  I just didn’t know that it would happen so fast.  But it is not a surprise to me that he had that much success. 


Alex Khvatov:  What is your definition of a leader?

D.J. Harper:  There are guys that lead by example and there are guys that are really vocal.  Ray Lewis comes to mind.  He is very vocal.  I think that it is someone who you want to model yourself after.  It is a guy that does the right things on and off the field. 


Alex Khvatov:  Which NFL player would you compare your game to?

D.J. Harper:  I have actually been told Shane Vereen with the Patriots.  He is a little bit of everything.  He can run inside, outside, can catch the ball and block well.  I am a little bit like Shane Vereen.


Alex Khvatov:  What do you plan to do with your life after your football career is over?

D.J. Harper:  I have been thinking about that a lot.  I started with engineering and then I moved to business.  Then I got my degree in communications and I am almost done with my minor in business.  I need like 16 credits.  So I can always go back and get that.  I would want to go and become a sports analyst or doing something with the news.  I think that I would stay in the sports field. 


Alex Khvatov:  What are your hobbies?

D.J. Harper:  I just like to lay back.  I am super chill.  I play Xbox.  I am a big music fan.  I hang out with close friends.  I spend a lot of quality time with family.  I don’t see my family quite as much because I have been so busy.  It is nice to be back at home.  I like to hang out with my brother and a younger sister.  I like to lay low.  I don’t like to party or go out.


Alex Khvatov:  Do you have a chip on your shoulder as you head to the NFL?

D.J. Harper:  Absolutely.  It is the same thing when I was coming out of high school.  I had a chip on my shoulder back then.  A lot of people thought that I won’t bounce back from my ankle surgery.  They didn’t think that I was fast or big enough.  I have gained quite a bit of respect.  But I do have to prove to everyone that these knee injuries haven’t slowed me down.  I have to prove that I haven’t lost a step.  I feel like I am one of the better backs in this class.  I do have a chip on my shoulder. 


Alex Khvatov:  What makes you a unique individual?

D.J. Harper:  I feel like I don’t fit into a stereotype of a football player.  I am not a big man on campus.  I enjoy signing autographs for little kids.  I enjoy taking pictures with people.  I like to give back to the community.  I enjoy going out and not being well known. 


Alex Khvatov:  Finish the sentence, D.J. Harper is….

D.J. Harper:  A humble and blessed individual that is definitely looking for the opportunity of playing at the next level.  I know that the best is yet to come.                     


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