EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY- Undrafted free agent Nate Harvey is no stranger to adversity, so what made him break down on day one of the New York Giants’ 2019 rookie camp? The doctor’s utterance of: “A torn meniscus”.
After working his entire life to put on a National Football League uniform, Harvey had found a home with Big Blue. Then, on day one, in a non-contact bag drill, he went down and immediately expected the worst. The tears started flowing. “I thought it was all over. I [pleaded with] God: why me?” A diagnosis of a torn meniscus could, in theory, sound like a death sentence to a rookie free agent who had never lost time in his entire career due to injury.
After Harvey was told by the medical staff that he would miss the entire 2019-2020 Giants season, general manager Dave Gettleman, in his office, offered him a piece of advice: “Keep your head down and stay focused”. Ironically, that isn’t the first time he had heard that directive before. In fact, Gettleman happened to channel Harvey’s mother and grandmother, two significant figures in his life. Not long ago, Harvey opened up to me at a GALvanize bootcamp in partnership with the Giants.
He explained to me that his father was not around often due to his career in the military and, ultimately, Nate’s parents’ marriage gave way to divorce. Furthermore, his uncle, with whom he shared a close relationship, was killed in a tragic accident in which he was struck by a drunk driver. Undoubtedly because of the difficulties in his home life, Harvey admittedly developed anger management issues. For example, the administration in his middle school benched him for the school’s football championship game. Why? “Because I cursed out the principal”. “In fairness”, Harvey continued, “he told me three times to tuck in my shirt… and I didn’t”. With a slight shake of his head, he explained that without him, the team lost by a score of 50-7.
in Italian: Dimmi con chi vai e ti dirò chi sei. Literally translated, it means: tell me with whom you go around and I will tell you who you are. At this juncture, Harvey chose to forego college and leave the house he shared with his mother and many siblings.
Eventually, Harvey found himself on the right path and onto Georgia Military College and, eventually, to East Carolina University. In 2018, he was the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and football as a career choice became a real possibility for Harvey. Then, the NCAA denied his fifth year option, which left him with seven days to train before fourteen NFL teams converged on ECU for his pro day. What did he hope that the Giants saw from him in that time? That he plays hard and “takes no plays off”.
Now, having gone through so much adversity at twenty two years of age… some people would give up, but not Nate Harvey. He leans on his mom and his grandmother for support. “[They’re] real spiritual. They told me that God doesn’t give you obstacles that you cant overcome. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles in my life and I just look at this one as another one.”
All of this, while wearing a number that bears tremendous significance for him and for his family. To honor his late uncle, who passed away at 38 years of age, Nate described the day he was assigned that number. “I just felt like it was destiny. I showed up late [to practice] at Pop Warner, and the last two numbers left were 20 and 38. [My coach] asked me which number I wanted. I knew number 38 was for me.”
At the moment, Nate Harvey is motivated by family in his rehab and in eventually taking the field again with the Giants. He told me that he sees his twin brothers, at fourteen years of age, are starting down the same, bad path he took. It is his responsibility, he feels, to succeed in the NFL in order to encourage them to stay out of trouble. He plans to unleash his experience at linebacker, running back, tight end, full back, defensive end, and special teams in East Rutherford in the spring of 2020. Earning a spot on the roster next fall would be the ultimate triumph for a determined Harvey.