Everyone has a story.
It just so happens some stories take a few more twists and turns than others.
Meet Harrison Elliott.
A Georgia native.
A Man of Faith.
An Air Force Academy graduate.
A Military veteran.
A Type 1 Diabetes fighter.
A Long snapper.
Elliott is one of those people. You know that person with a strong, calm voice. It hits your ears like a whisper but its impact leaves a roar. You find a level of comfort with these types of people almost immediately and you think to yourself: This person could be a leader in any environment.
Elliott and his leadership qualities can be traced back as far as time, but one of the most profound examples was when he was voted to the Player-Coach Council as a senior at Air Force. His senior year was the first year this program was established. He served on a 20 player panel where they communicated with coaches on a variety of topics and were also part of the player discipline process.
Elliott enjoyed much success during his career as a Member of the Falcons program. Harrison played in two bowl games, won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy resulting in a White House visit, was a multi-year starter as the Long Snapper and served as an integral part of the program’s rebirth. As a junior, Harrison and the squad suffered through a 2-win season signaling something dramatic needed to transpire in the offseason. Elliott reflected on the time and recalled there being a short turnaround from the last game to the first offseason workout. The workouts were grueling, Elliott recalled, as the early morning sessions pushed the players mentally while testing them physically; then the afternoon weight room sessions were matched with an equal intensity signaling a dramatic shift in what the internal expectations for the upcoming season were.
Elliott’s senior season was much different as it resulted in a 10-win season, a bowl game appearance and victory along with winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.
“We won some games that many wouldn’t have expected us to win including victories over teams ranked in the Top 25. Playing in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was a great way to end my college career with a bowl game and victory. But the trip to the White House was special. It was a seniors-only trip and it was very intimate. We had the public ceremony that we’ve all seen on TV when a championship team visits but we had a moment beforehand with the president. It was President Obama at the time. He came in, shook all our hands and asked our names, took a moment to speak to us privately with words of encouragement and thanking us for our dedication to the country. It was an experience that I will never forget and especially to share that with my fellow seniors; it was a great moment.”
Following his graduation, Elliott spent camp time with the Denver Broncos in 2015 and the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. Neither opportunity evolved into a roster spot and it had to do with Elliott and his required military duty. Elliott was to serve a 2-year term as outlined by his military paperwork, and would then be able to fully participate in any and all NFL activities without having to worry about any military interference. The route Elliott and his agent wanted to take was by using the NFL’s military/reserve list designation. Elliott explained the designation to me by saying, “This is used when a player is on active duty and is not able to fulfill his contractual obligations with an NFL team. It almost works as a futures contract. The team can hold my rights until my term of service is complete and during that time I am not counted on their roster or as a number towards the salary cap. Once my term of service is up the team can activate me and I’m able to go.”
While this is an approach that the Patriots and Bill Belichick have used before, Elliott did not experience such luck with the teams he was in contact with. Elliott elected to carry out his term of service with the Air Force and took a posting in Warner Robins, GA. This brought Elliott back home to be near family as he worked in a business-related capacity focusing on purchasing and procurement along with program needs for the Air Force.
While carrying out the duties of his service Elliott focused on keeping his body ready for a football opportunity. However, during this time Elliott noticed subtle changes to his body. Elliott sought various medical opinions and the thought of diabetes was being ruled out for various reasons; mainly as there was no evident family history of Type 1 Diabetes either. During about a three month period Elliott lost approximately 50 pounds but the doctors had no answers; he has since gained the weight back. Then one day it all came to a screeching halt.
Elliott recalled a workout with someone that he never lost any competition to and after not only losing he noticed he was completely exhausted after one set. Elliott went to a local hospital and it immediately turned into an emergency situation. Elliott registered a blood sugar reading of 599 while a normal reading will register somewhere between 70-120. The doctors told Elliott had he not shown up to the hospital at that moment he most likely would not have survived the night. During this moment Elliott faced a crucial decision to either accept or decline insulin. Elliott told me that if he accepted the insulin it would effectively end his military career. Elliott furthered the explanation by stating if he were ever in a situation behind enemy lines and didn’t have access to his medication it would create an extremely time-sensitive situation for him and the military to ensure a safe return.
It was during this time that Elliott took about a month or so to allow his body time to recuperate and adjust after what it had gone through. The entire situation put a unique perspective in place for Elliott, “When I was told about the severity of my situation and how I survived three months when in most cases people will die in about two weeks of the symptoms I experienced it created a whole new appreciation of the human body.”
Once Elliott returned to his normal activities he was looking for ways to bring back that competitive edge that he was missing. He was introduced to CrossFit Training and it changed his life, “My body is entirely different now from when I first tried. My athleticism, movements, build just everything is different than before. I’ve never felt better.”
It was the mental aspect of attacking workouts and strategies to complete workouts that made Elliott fall in love with the workouts. The competitive edge was back and growing. He naturally wanted and needed more.
Then came a brilliant suggestion from Elliott’s wife: Why don’t you start snapping again?
So Elliott got back into it.
He started adding more and more to his workouts; as the football fire that had never left it just lied unawakened. Then the turning point came on an Alumni Weekend trip back to the Air Force Academy.
It was during this weekend trip he realized that he was meant to be in a locker room atmosphere, “I’m a big believer in purpose and for me, I felt my purpose was to serve in a locker room. I’ve always had the ability to unify and that’s what I want to bring a combination of experiences on and off the field to help the organization get to the next level.”
After this weekend in Colorado, Elliott once again turned his competition level up a notch. Elliott began putting together videos of him going through workouts and attended a few showcase camps gaining interest from teams before uncertainty struck due to Coronavirus. Elliott has not let that deter him from his ultimate goal. “I’m ready to come in and handle the snapping duties for a team. I’m certain that with my work ethic and leadership, in the right situation and with the right coaching staff I could contribute and fill a snapping void for a team. My body is different now. I’ve completely transformed my entire lifestyle. I used to have the mindset of just being good enough for one team to like me, but now my mindset is to be so good everyone wants you,” Elliott said when asked about how ready he is to contribute.
Immediately contributing to a team was the path Elliott was on after a series of strong workouts generating the interest of a handful of teams. Elliott had long thought he was better equipped for the NFL this time around, and based on the interest garnered off the workouts it seemed as if the league agreed. There is a workout video on YouTube from December 19, 2019, where the pop on his snaps is evident in addition to showing strong footwork and hand punch skills against a simulated rush. While it may seem the odds are stacked against Elliott, this is a situation he has thrived in before. Elliott has the physical, mental and spiritual capabilities to complete this long journey to the NFL. Elliott has been tested to unprecedented levels during his military days and his one-of-a-kind work ethic allowed him to recreate his body despite brushing up against death. Elliott is on the verge of landing on an NFL roster and when he does just watch him establish a chokehold on the snapping duties wherever he lands.