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Why Damon Harrison is called “Snacks” and why the nickname has stuck

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Eric Single of Sports Illustrated got the lowdown on how Damon Harrison came to be called “Snacks.

Snacks Harrison just sounds good. I’m sure that’s part of its appeal. But I think it also has the advantage of describing Harrison’s game. It’s a name you associate with a big dude, and it’s a name you associate with a big dude who makes the weight work.

According to the quackery of William Herbert Sheldon, Harrison is what would be called an endomorph. He puts on weight easily. Sheldon’s work was an extension of the wider movement to judge character by appearance which was so popular for so distressingly long. In Harrison’s own words:

[Rich Cimini:] You’re a legendary eater, so I imagine you have to watch your weight.

[Harrison]: Hell, yeah, I can’t get back big. I weight 333 now. After the break last offseason, I was about 356.

[RC:] So you can put on 20 pounds quickly.

DH: In a week. I have to watch everything I eat.

In the world of Newtonian physics which defines interior line play, being naturally big is good. Force is mass times acceleration, and within the short distance between offensive and defensive linemen across the line of scrimmage, acceleration tends to matter a lot less than mass. For myriad reasons that does not mean fatter is better but naturally big while relatively fit is the broadest of broad descriptions of what makes a good defensive tackle. Harrison is not just naturally big he’s relatively big, a giant among people selected for their huge size.

He’s is known for his run defense. Snacks has been part of three defenses which have finished first or second in rushing DVOA. His promotion to starter or arrival has corresponded with big jumps in rushing defense. He became a starter in 2013 and the Jets improved from 19th to 2nd. After signing him to a somewhat ludicrous contract the 2016 Giants improved from 23rd to 2nd. Obviously, that’s not all Harrison but it’s the kind of dramatic improvement which makes people notice. He has a reputation for being a movable feast of run defense making plays of his own but moreover indirectly making plays for others.

Here’s what it looks like when Snacks eats:

Harrison is the Lion in the right A-gap. He matches up with Zack Martin and rides him toward the ball carrier. This creates a wall to block any attempt at cutting back. When Ezekiel Elliott’s momentum is arrested, that wall collapses on Elliott resulting in a splashy tackle.

Martin was voted to the Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro recognition in 2019. That’s one thing I like about Harrison. His game is mostly matchup proof. Unless a clone of Larry Allen is suspended in a tube somewhere, very few guards are ever likely to fare better than Martin did. Harrison anchors too well and he’s too nimble to be easily exploited side-to-side.

Here’s what it looks like when Harrison passes the Rice Krispies Treat.

Not too different. Here he’s working through trash and a ways away from the play, but he’s still a floating wall cutting off the cutback lane. Harrison anchors. Harrison keeps his gap. Harrison moves well in tight spaces.

He’s not really a pass rusher. This may be a little too unorthodox of an approach, but I offer a gif of his sack of Carson Wentz as proof of this assertion.

Harrison fits the description dancing bear if that bear were carved from wood. That’s not quite fair. His footwork is pretty good, but he’s not so much explosive as powered by watch spring. Man, what happened to Wentz? That’s some canner quality scrambling right there.

Harrison hasn’t been part of a great run defense in a while. To say he’s not easily exploited side-to-side is not to say I haven’t seen him on the turf. He’s not a natural fit for what Pete Carroll has done in the past. He’s much more squat and thick, and not broad, tall and rangy like Tony McDaniel or Alan Branch. Snacks is comparable to Bryan Mone. That may be his place: depth and competition. There aren’t too many guys like Harrison or Mone on Earth, which makes having both rare depth.

Nicknames which stick are fun and fitting. Word is Harrison doesn’t like the nickname anymore and would rather be called Heavy D, Boss Hogg or Big Dame. Which are all generic and/or taken. “Snacks” makes you think of a big guy who’s always eating, and as a player, Harrison is a space eater who contributes lots of small portions of value. “Snacks” makes you think of a sweet guy who has the humility natural to the naturally large. Even when complaining about the nickname, he took pains to say it’s still okay to call him that. We’ll do that. A nickname that perfect is very rare.