For 2002 Mexico grad. Dedrick Harrington football took was a journey that began at the University of Missouri and stopped in Dallas and Indianapolis before coming to a close with the Rams.
Now the former Mizzou Tiger lives in Arizona, where he works as an insurance agent and enjoys regular visits with his two sons.
"The football experience was a little different at Missouri. As I learned in college, in many places football was much bigger and more closely watched," said Harrington. "It was still pretty big in Mexico because we had some athletes, but we weren't allowed to play varsity until our sophomore year. We had to play freshman football. In the other sports we could jump to varsity, so that was the challenge, at first. As I developed, got better and started to get noticed, there were difficulties handling that."
Because of how he and his teammates were embraced by the community and how loud the fans were at his games, Harrington's memories of Mexico are anything but negative. The fact he also found success on the field and had fun during that time hasn't been forgotten, either.
"It was actually my AAU basketball coach I played for in the summer who actually got colleges to look at me. During my first year of college I was fairly close to home, but it still felt like a world apart," Harrington said. "There was so much being thrown at me at one time that it seemed like my 30 minute drive to Mexico could've been 10 hours. There was so much going on it was hard to be in both places. It was a growing experience because football definitely tears you down mentally then builds you back."
While Harrington certainly felt overwhelmed during that initial year at Mizzou, the lessons he learned about life and adversity served him well in the years to come. This included coming back from a high ankle sprain as a freshman, balancing school and athletics and adapting to classroom sizes that grew from about 25 students to over 500.
"I had to come together with a group of gentleman who were also the best of the best from their school. I had to check myself when I first got on campus because everybody has a scholarship and highlight tapes," said Harrington. "There were a lot of eye-opening experiences that make you a man. I'd say from the end of your freshman year to the end of your sophomore year it's amazing how much you grow. Having a lot more coaches at Mizzou, they had more time to spend with us individually."
The end result of all this hands-on training was a specialization at one position as opposed to the prep game where two-way and special teams play are everybody's responsibility. Game film also became a much more vital learning tool for Harrington once he knew exactly what to look for.
"I was redshirted as a freshman, so I could have gone pro after my junior season and that probably would've been my best chance," Harrington said. "I broke my forearm that year in our bowl game against South Carolina, so I stayed for my senior year. I was going to get drafted by the Raiders, so my agent and I spoke with them and we decided we wanted a choice of where I went. Getting drafted in the later rounds is no guarantee and it's about the same money as being an undrafted free agent."
As a professional Harrington's first stop was with the Dallas Cowboys, a move made possible by the fact his coaches at Missouri moved him from safety to linebacker early in his career. While the former Bulldog had played in front of some big college crowds against national powerhouses like Oklahoma, becoming a Cowboy took that intensity to a whole other level.
"I didn't realize how big it was at first. I've been around stars before, so I've never been the type to get starstruck. We're all just people, but when I got there and realized we couldn't walk from the bus to the mall that's when I figured out how intense the attention was," said Harrington. "In training camp at Happy Valley you'd see two or three thousand people at practice. Then in camp in San Antonio there were twenty or thirty thousand people at practice. This is the morning session at 8 a.m."
Even though that experience only lasted from May to Oct. of that year, Harrington then spent the rest of 2007 with the practice squad at Indianapolis. He then split 2008 between the practice squads of the Colts and the St. Louis Rams before marriage led him to his current life in Arizona. Now divorced, Harrington stayed in the area to be a father to his two sons and is now a salesman for State Farm Insurance.