Daddy used to say 90 percent of life and success was just showing your face—at meetings and weddings and funerals, etc.
He said, "Son, you can achieve success beyond your wildest dreams if you just make a life-long commitment to showing your face."
You could say the same thing about football as well. Especially, if you were Roman Harper.
Harper is an All-Pro these days, but things weren't always so great.
The New Orleans Saints drafted him in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, but the kid from Alabama says he didn't really know what he was doing back in those days...he says he was just playing football.
To hell with all that mental stuff.
In those early years, Harper developed a reputation as a hard-hitter—a good strong safety but not a great one they said.
He lacked the ability to make plays on the ball—a phrase sportswriters are fond of using but really a meaningless one and yet, I admit, unabashedly, that I have become fond of the phrase and use it myself quite often at social functions to impress the others.
The kid's got stone hands Rocky!!! Can't intercept a pass I tell ya'!!!
But that was five years ago, before a defensive coordinator named Gregg Williams came to town.
Saints observers will tell you that no one has benefited more from the tutelage of the eccentric Williams than Jonathan Vilma and Roman Harper.
In Sunday's 31-13 Saints win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Harper was a true multi-tasker.
After all, there were fumbles to be forced, fumbles to be recovered, fumbles to be returned and a rookie quarterback to be pressured and sacked.
All in a day's work for Harper.
"We wanted to mix it up a little bit. Keep them confused," Harper told WWL Radio Sunday night. "And, the biggest part is we wanted to try and affect him (Rams QB Sam Bradford.)
"We wanted to try to get to him early. Try to force as many turnovers as we could. Fly around and just play fast."
Harper did just that—early and often as those Louisiana politicians like to say.
On the Rams first offensive possession, Steven Jackson fumbled after rambling 20 yards into Saints territory.
It was Harper who swatted it away. A skill Gregg Williams loves to teach.
"I always tell people how (underrated) Roman Harper is," Saints veteran safety Pierson Prioleau told The Times-Picayune back in November. "I mean you look at the way he pressures, his sacks, the guy can cover tight ends and wide receivers...But, you know, sometimes safeties in this league go unnoticed and he's definitely one of them."
Perhaps but not on Sunday. Not by the Rams.
Harper captured the attention of rookie Bradford on more than one occasion in New Orleans this chilly weekend in the South.
With the Saints leading 28-6 late in the third quarter, Harper sacked Bradford for a 10-yard loss on 3rd-and-11 at the Rams 20. He followed that up by forcing Bradford to throw the ball away with the Rams driving in Saints territory midway through the fourth.
"We had a turnover early in the game and then we had a couple of picks late and we continued to pressure (Bradford) and hit him," Harper told WWL Radio. "That was the plan."
Unfortunately, Harper's dynamic afternoon was overshadowed by a blooper at the very end that those beer-bellied sportswriters found amusing.
Life being unfair as it is, many people will remember Harper forever by that play where a rookie QB chased him down.
No quite as embarrassing as when Leon Lett ran the wrong way, but bad enough.
No good deed goes unpunished as they say.
A damned snot-nosed rookie QB!!!
On 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Jackson fumbled again and Harper recovered racing 82 yards before running out of bounds because he just plain ran out of fuel.
Those media smart-asses say Harper got caught from behind by a quarterback.
Harper sees it differently.
"He (Bradford) didn't run me down because he never touched me," Harper said. "The tank was on "E" after about 35, 40 (yards). They said I looked extremely tired and I was even when I got to the sideline, that was my first time to grab some oxygen, man. I didn't even have enough energy to try and fight off a tackle. I just had to go out-of-bounds."
Understandable considering Harper was one busy guy all afternoon—seven tackles, one quarterback sack and one fumble recovery.
Yet Harper's head coach wouldn't allow him any satisfaction.
When asked by reporters if Harper's blooper should be replayed, Sean Payton joked, "I would replay that and I would write about if I were you."
Such is life in the National Football League as the late Howard Cosell would say.
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