Former Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison says Eagles' receiver Jason Avant is "like a little brother that I never had."
"He did it the right way. He didn't complain. He didn't cry to anyone. He worked hard and now he's reaping the benefits," Harrison said on a conference call with PhiladelphiaEagles.com. "The one thing that the guy does is he works his butt off. He's the hardest working young man, or even one of the hardest working people I've ever been around. He's always positive."
The two met when Avant was a sophomore in high school. One of Avant's brothers knew Harrison. They played some basketball together and before too long formed a bond that lasts until this very day.
"I saw a young guy who kept fighting, kept pushing back and thought 'this little cat has got some heart' .... He showed me a level of toughness," Harrison recalled from his days on the baskteball court with Avant. "Toughness and pride, but not arrogance, and that's the thing that really attracted me to Jason. He was a very humble kid, very soft-spoken, very determined not to let anyone push him around and very determined to succeed. That was the thing that really set Jason off from a lot of the other kids that I encountered."
Avant was mature for his age partly because of the adversity he had to overcome while growing up. He overcame his cousins' gang-related activities and put his faith in God early in college.
"That's part of the whole story behind Jason and what makes Jason Jason, because he had to overcome a lot," Harrison said. "Despite his circumstances or situation, he still remained positive. He really deserved to get praise for that becuase I don't know if at that young of an age, going through so much adversity, if I could have kept the optimism like he did and stayed positive."
Earlier this month, when Avant signed a new five-year contract, he attributed at least part of his work ethic to Harrison.
"A guy like Jason didn't need motivation; he just needed direction," Harrison said. "I just told him that 'Anything that you want in life, you got to go get. The only way you're going to succeed or achieve success is you've got to outwork the next person.'
"I'm so proud and happy because he trusted and he believed in that."
Referring to Avant as a "terrific athlete," Harrison he recalled telling Avant that his success would come in football, not basketball. He even offered him a tip on what position he should play.
"He was debating should he be a wide receiver or should he be a defensive back," Harrison said. "I said always go catch the ball because that's where the money is at. I think right now he realizes what I said about eight years ago. It's coming true."
Avant's foundation is built on God, spirituality and family. But Harrison credits trainer Will Franklin for bring out Avant's "inner beast."
"Will Franklin did a terrific job of just bringing the inner beast out of Jason," said Harrison, who also trained with Franklin. "I think he made Jason realize the potential that was in Jason. Jason got bigger, he got stronger, he got faster and he became more confident.
"Will did a terrific job of just really bringing that confidence out of Jason. Jason had it in him, but he just didn't know what he had inside of him."
All of those intangibles, along with hard work, has helped Avant reach his current place on the Eagles' roster.
"He's such a good person, and you want to see a guy like that succeed," Harrison said.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 3:00 p.m., March 30