Buffalo Bills safety Jajuan Harley, a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State, spent part of the last football season working at Wal-Mart. Today, he'll report to St. John Fisher College in Pittsford to begin his battle to make the Bills' 53-man roster. Harley was gracious enough to take some time from his busy training schedule to answer some questions for us Bills fans as the team convenes for 2014 training camp today. If you're on Twitter, give him a follow @jajuanharley and if you visit training camp this year, give him a big shout out on behalf of Buffalo Rumblings.
Harley is a Tallahassee native and earned PrepStar All-American honors as a senior at Rickards High School, where he played quarterback and receiver, and also lettered in basketball and track. A four-star recruit ranked in or near the Top 10 at his position nationally, Harley was recruited by prominent Division I programs Alabama, Clemson, and South Carolina, but ultimately decided to attend Florida State.
Harley appeared in 10 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams. His 2010 season didn't go as planned, as he suffered an injury during kickoff duties and, more importantly, dealt with some personal family matters that ultimately led to his leaving FSU. Harley transferred in December 2010, landing at Middle Tennessee State. In his only season with the Blue Raiders in 2012, Harley was third on the team in tackles, and won the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 12 by forcing three turnovers.
Only a few classes remaining from acquiring his degree, Harley entered the 2013 NFL Draft as a junior, forgoing his senior season. At his pro day, he demonstrated the athletic ability that made him a top recruit, measuring in at 6'0" and 203 pounds, running a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, and adding a 37.5-inch vertical jump and a 10'3" broad jump. Projected to be a late round pick, Harley was not selected, but was asked to a tryout with the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
He was not asked back for training camp, and after a separate tryout with Denver and a stint at Wal-Mart - which Harley talks about below - he signed with the IFL's Bemidji Axemen. Before he could suit up, however, the Bills came calling, and he signed a reserve/future deal with Buffalo last January.
BR: Jajuan, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Before we get started, is there anything that you want us Bills fans to know about you?
JH: I wouldn't be here without the grace of God. I put him first in everything that I do. I put my trust in him and followed his orders; I let go of my plans so that his will could be done.
I wanted to give up on football after Seattle didn't sign me in the summer of 2013, and I even had plans on joining the military. However, football has always been a passion of mine.
Instead, I decided to take a job at Wal-Mart toys as a sales associate. Either after my late night shifts I would train myself or before my early morning shifts I would train, because I had faith the size of a mustard seed that I will get that NFL call in due time. I was brought in by Denver Broncos in October 2013 for a tryout, but didn't sign. So I signed to with the Bemidji Axemen (IFL arena) just to stay around football, but the season didn't start until January.
What I am saying is: Put God first in everything you want to do in life. Step out on faith and catch your dreams. Don't be afraid because what's for you will always be meant for you!!!
BR: Having been with the team for six months now, what are your impressions of the organization heading into the new season?
JH: Everyone is after the same thing, with one thing in mind and that is winning the Lombardi trophy. From listening to the vets they can sense a more focused team this season. What I am impressed about the most with this organization is that no one is dwelling on last season. That season is over. You learn from the past, focus on the present, and prepare for the future.
BR: What can you take from your camp stay with Seattle, the eventual champions, last summer to apply to your bid to make the Bills?
JH: Yes I was in their 2013 rookie mini-camp for a tryout. The attitude I will take from Seattle is to always compete. Compete every snap that I am involved in, and take nothing for granted.
BR: The Bills have admitted to their need for special teams improvement. Can you help them get there?
JH: Yes, I feel like I can contribute on special teams. Special teams are what made me successful at Florida State. I take pride on special teams. It is a phase that can shift momentum at any point of the game. Whatever is needed from me to help the team get to where we want to be; I am willing to step up when my number is called.
BR: What can you tell us about EJ Manuel, the person, from your two years together at Florida State?
JH: EJ is leader, someone who I can talk to not just about football but about life. Throughout my trials and tribulations I was facing at Florida State. He always kept saying encouraging words or just joke around to keep me uplifted.
BR: From my understanding, you are relatives with former FSU and now-Bills teammate Nigel Bradham. Can you elaborate on your relationship with Nigel, and was he influential on you signing here in Buffalo?
JH: Yes, it is great to have a family on the same field as me. Not many people can say that. I was working in Wal-Mart toys making minimum wage, so as soon as the Buffalo Bills said they wanted to sign me. That was all the influence I needed.
BR: For those of us who are unfamiliar with your game, can you explain some of the skill sets and attributes that you will be bringing to the Bills? What are some of the things we can expect to see from you on the field at training camp?
JH: My athletic abilities to jump high, change direction, catch, reading the Quarterback, and my speed are my skill sets; the speed that I am blessed with helps me get to the ball easier. "It's all about the ball" and my speed allows me to get there. I take pride in everything I do, so you guys will see me hustling every play. Plus, not too many people received the opportunity like I did and I will take advantage of every opportunity I get.
BR: Aaron Williams credits coach Donnie Henderson with helping him make the transition from corner to safety. What are your thoughts of coach Henderson, and what are some of the things he's been working with you on, and how has he helped you thus far as a player?
JH: I can write a book about my thoughts on Coach Donnie Henderson and I am not over exaggerating. I was not taught football. I just relied on my athletic ability to get me by. Coach Henderson taught me the game of football. I always look forward to meetings, because I know I am going to learn so much. What coach has helped a lot is becoming more knowledgeable about the game. I really thank God for blessing him into my life.
BR: Take us behind the scenes a bit. What is your relationship like with the other players on the team? What do you guys do for fun, and who are the guys that you hang out with the most?
JH: My relationship with the other players is great. I really like talking to the vets such as Corey Graham, Mario Butler, Ramses Barden just to name a few. We talk about football, but the conversations I love are the ones we talk about outside of football; just sitting around talking about life. These guys are older than me so they have seen things I haven't and also they give me tips on things that they wish someone would have done for them.
Once again, I'd like to thank Jajuan for his time. Let's wish him the best of luck as he attempts to live out his NFL dream!