Reid Harrison-Ducros: Path to the NFL Draft
Amid global uncertainty, the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off in under one week. With so much disruption in the lead up to the annual selection meeting, teams, scouts, and players are adjusting to a new way of working, to a new process. This year has been particularly hard for players from outside the upper echelons on the game to make an impression and put themselves in the minds of NFL decision makers. For Reid Harrison-Ducros, however, some words of advice are defining his mindset.
“Control what you can control. Especially now with everything being shut down. It really takes away opportunities for players, especially small school guys like myself, trying to get on the NFL radar and get teams to notice you. You can’t control what’s going on around, but you can control how you take on each day. Just continue to stay at peak performance for when that opportunity comes, or that call comes does come, to go to a team.”
This year’s NFL Draft will be an entirely virtual affair, and in the age of social media and the internet, Reid Harrison-Ducros has been able to lean on that medium in an attempt to show teams that he can play at the next level.
“My Dad, along with my agent, have really taken advantage of the social media aspect with me not being able to go to Pro Day or NFL Regional Combine to get face to face and showcase my skills in front of scouts in person. I feel like we got in front of the wave with getting my virtual Pro Day and getting my film out to as many people as possible, in all the ways possible.”
Football is a religion
His Dad has been a big part of the football journey for Reid Harrison-Ducros. Football is in the family heritage and growing up in the state of Texas only helped fuel a passion that has lasted a lifetime.
“Texas, it’s like a religion down here. Football is a religion. My dad played football all the way through high school. His dad played football all the way up to the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys. So I’ve always had football in my life, it’s a part of this family in that sense. I have a picture when I was two years old with me with a football in a Saints jersey. I’ve always been around the game. I just love the game and have a desire to play it for as long as I can.”
Whilst he grew up a Saints fan living in Texas, his early football inspiration was doing the business in San Diego. The cornerback he modelled his game on now plays for the Chargers too.
“Growing up I was a huge Ladainian Tomlinson fan, the old running back for the Chargers. He was my favourite player growing up. When I started playing corner specifically it was Chris Harris Jr, who also just got picked up by the Chargers. I chose him because he is my build, 5’10, around my weight, 190lbs, and he’s played at a Pro Bowl level year in, year out. He’s played at nickel as well as outside corner. Seeing what he does, the techniques that makes him successful in the NFL, I try to emulate that and put them into my game aswell.”
Reid Harrison-Ducros shines under the lights
The first opportunity to put those techniques to the test in a competitive environment would be at Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas. He played three years for the Panthers, an experience that would prepare and propel him on his football journey.
“My sophomore year I played on varsity, I was the third string. I didn’t get a lot of playing time but it’s definitely a huge benefit to play the little bit that I did in my sophomore season. You can get into the game in a varsity game, wet your feet a little bit in a sense, to get that experience. In my junior year and my senior year it was kinda like I’d been here before. It kinda made the transition easier as you’ve been on that platform before.”
The “platform” was Texas High School football. Texas state is famous for the “Friday Night Lights”, with the best players playing in the biggest stadiums. The whole town shuts down for the game, and there is possibly no greater focus on student athletes than that environment.
Reid Harrison-Ducros shone under the spotlight. During his senior season at Colleyville he was named First Team All-District and Second Team All-State.
“It was a huge accomplishment for me. Texas football, everyone is playing, and there is a lot, a LOT, of good players that come out of Texas, especially in the Dallas Fort Worth area. So, to be named Second Team All-State was definitely a blessing and I was happy to be named there, to see my hard work being recognised.”
Representing Team USA at the International Bowl
It wasn’t the only recognition to come his way. Reid Harrison-Ducros received an invitation to play for the USA U-19 team to take on Canada in the International Bowl. The USA shutout Canada 33-0 in Cowboys Stadium, another taste of high-profile football, alongside quality players, in an NFL environment.
“That experience was definitely surreal! I would advise anyone who gets the opportunity to play on any Team USA team to do it. I was really excited, not only for the game, but because of the talent that was on that team I was even excited for practice! You had players on that team like N’Keal Harry, Mecole Hardman, Dwayne Haskins was at quarterback. Top, top guys that are now in the NFL. It was cool to practice against them and put my skillset against theirs because if they’re going to Georgia, Arizona State, Ohio State, seeing you could play against those guys and do well against those guys gave me a boost of confidence that I could definitely do this.”
Heading to the "Smurf Turf" at Boise State
Reid Harrison-Ducros left Colleyville Heritage as a 3* cornerback recruit, having registered 68 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception in his senior year. Despite receiving multiple offers from teams such as North Texas, he discovered that some opportunities have to be earned.
“The recruiting process was wild. You don’t really know where you’re going to go in the beginning. It’s kind of like a waiting game to see who has interest in you. I actually committed to Boise State, but before I got that offer I went to Boise at a select camp and I showcased my abilities and they offered me a scholarship after the camp, after my performance. Doing that, it’s different for each player. Some players get the hype, get the five stars, but other players have to grind and work for it and go to these camps to get a scholarship. It’s definitely a windy road but I’m happy where I ended up, and where I finished.”
In Boise, he found a college town dedicated to football in much the same way he’d experienced at high school in Texas. He fell in love with the place and the people.
The path to the NFL Draft isn't always a straight one
However, it wouldn’t be the straight-forward path through Boise to the NFL that he had envisaged.
“When I signed there in 2016, the defensive co-ordinator and the defensive backs coach left. So, the people that recruited me there departed right after I got there. They hired in-staff, so the linebacker coach became the defensive co-ordinator. That freshman year I played special teams and a little bit on the field then the second year the defensive co-ordinator bought in a junior college corner because he wanted thicker bodies at the cornerback position. He was 6 foot, 205lbs, ran a 4.4 [40 yard dash]. He was just a freak of nature, this HUGE corner!”
“So I wasn’t even supposed to start the first four games that I did but he ran into some team violations so I wound up starting. Those first four games I played really well. I was the highest rated player on the entire team as of PFF. After the fourth game, midway through I got injured and the training staff wouldn’t let me back in the game. After the Virginia game I never played a defensive snap. I’d go in and ask the coach each week what I had to work on to come back on the field, just to get back in the rotation. He’d tell me something, I’d work on it at practice and then next week I’d say the same thing but it would be a whole new thing that I had to work on.”
“That happened week in, week out, and so I saw the path that the defense wanted to have at the corner position and decided to transfer as I thought it was my best option.”
Duquesne the destination the Reid Harrison-Ducros
With that decision, Reid Harrison-Ducros was essentially back on the recruiting trail. He entertained several offers, but a deciding factor that he’d carried out of Colleyville Heritage two years earlier, led him to Duquesne.
“Duquesne was one of the first schools to offer me a full scholarship. Out of high school one of my biggest goals was to be off my parents pay roll as much as possible. A big thing in that is getting a full scholarship. I could have gone to the University of Texas. They offered me a scholarship for the following spring so I would have had to pay for a year of school. University of Oklahoma offered me a preferred walk on, as well as Northwestern. Duquesne had a tradition of winning. When I went up there, I fell in love with the place.”
The switch to Duquesne had an immediate impact on Reid Harrison-Ducros and his football journey. He played in 12 games in his first season, recording five pass break ups as the Dukes made it to the FCS Playoffs as the NEC Division Champions.
“It was awesome. I think it was more important to me than maybe some of the other players because I’d never won a championship since Pee Wee football. Middle school I never won. High School I never won a playoff game. When I was at Boise, we didn’t win the Mountain West or our bowl game. Winning that NEC Championship as well as making history going to the second round definitely meant a lot to me. There was a lot of emotions going through me in that moment. Just to have that hardware in my back pocket and check that off the list was definitely a plus.”
Technique. Quickness. Knowledge of the game
2018 was a springboard to a 2019 football season that saw Reid Harrison-Ducros become a standout of a Duquesne defensive unit that ranked seventh in the FCS. He secured a NEC Defensive Player of the Week award against Sacred Heart and his second best in division four interceptions led to him being named to the 2019 All-NEC first team.
He puts his senior season success down to one thing. Hard work.
“Each and every year, and each and every week, throughout practice and through the games, I always watch four to six hours of film each week to try and perfect my technique as much as I can. As well as my knowledge of the game, I always try and expand on that.”
The perfection of technique is something that Reid Harrison-Ducros has been working on since he was a young boy learning the game of football. It’s something that he prides himself as one of the key attributes he has as a cornerback.
“The biggest things in my game are my technique, my quickness, and my knowledge of the game. My technique, I’ve been working on since the sixth grade with people like Larry Brown, who was the Super Bowl 30 MVP for the Cowboys. Jay Valai, who’s the defensive backs coach at the University of Texas, as well as Clay Mack who is basically the defensive back guru in the North Texas area. Having them in my corner has really helped me perfect my craft.”
Acrobatic interception showcases agility
He saved the best example of all those elements that make up his game for his senior day at Duquesne. In his final game at The Bluff, Reid Harrison-Ducros pulled off an acrobatic interception against Aaron Winchester, the NEC Offensive Player of the Year.
“All game they were trying double moves and stuff, and I was locking the guy down. So, I thought they might try a double move later on in the game to try and get him his catches. They ran a slant and go. It’s kinda like a feeling you get in the game, I can’t really explain it, but it didn’t look like it was a slant route. I broke on it, and then I saw him still coming up the field, so when he broke to that go, I was already on it. Got in front of him, put my shoulder in his chest. I was kinda looking back and I saw them throw the ball so when I turned, the ball was right there, and I jumped up and came down with it.”
Donald Driver inspires Reid Harrison-Ducros
After his final appearance for Duquesne, Reid Harrison-Ducros headed into the NFL Draft process. Snubbed by the NFL Combine, despite feeling that he had shown he could dominate against FBS level players when given the opportunity, the chance to showcase his skills face to face has been denied with the cancellation of workouts that usual allow small school prospects to force their way in to the minds of the NFL front offices.
Surrounded by a team of support, one person in particular has shown him that the path to the NFL Draft is still open, no matter where you play, or what level you play at.
“Donald Driver has been huge to me. He was from a small school and he got drafted in the seventh round. He made a huge impact with the Packers. One of the all-time greats for them. Having him give his experience to me and share his knowledge of the process. He always says, I’m a small-school guy just like him, all I need is one opportunity and that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve garnered. Small school guys usually get overlooked, especially without Pro Day and stuff. People are sceptical that you can’t play at the bigger stage but he’s a prime example of a small school guy who wanted it and had the desire and passion to be the best. I feel like that helps a lot in this process.”
All you need is one opportunity
The virtual Pro Day workout is there for all the NFL teams to see, as is the game tape from his four years spread between Boise State and Duquesne. At the time that I sat down with Reid Harrison-Ducros, he hadn’t had any telephone or video calls with teams. If they ring between now and the NFL Draft, what will he tell them as to why they should use one of their selections on him?
“First off, I’m versatile. I can play nickel, as well as outside and safety. Also, on special teams. I can play everything except kicking the ball. I’m a student of the game. I truly enjoy expanding my knowledge. I’m a consistent competitor in every aspect of the game, all the way from the field to the film room. I pride myself on being a technician, giving my all to the team in whatever position I’m needed at in order to win. I’m also a positive influence in the community, and not a headache to coaches or the organisation.”
With just a matter of days until Roger Goodell puts the Cincinnati Bengals on the clock to open the NFL Draft, there has been one team that has reached out to Reid Harrison-Ducros. The Indianapolis Colts have been in contact twice through the process.
As Donald Driver has taught him, all you need is one opportunity.
“It would be a dream come true. Kids grow up dreaming about being drafted. I’ve watched the draft every single year. Seeing that, growing up with that year in, and year out, having the burning desire to play football at the highest level. It would definitely be a dream come true.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Feature Image Credit: Duquesne Athletics
Huge thanks to Reid Harrison-Ducros for taking the time to speak to us.