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New Blood Arrives: Transfer Thomas Harper Interview

By: Mike Stacey ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter: @MikeStaceyIT

Photo Credit: Notre Dame Athletics

I had the opportunity to have a phone call with Notre Dame's new safety/corner hybrid, Oklahoma State transfer Thomas Harper. Thomas or Tom, he goes by both, seems to be a perfect fit both on and off the field for the Irish. On the field, Thomas comes with four years of experience playing for Oklahoma State. Yes, the same team that beat ND in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago. The good news is OKST had a top 10 defense that year and he was a part of that. He can play safety, nickel, corner, just about anywhere you want in the secondary. He is the younger brother of Dallas Cowboy's linebacker Devin Harper who also played for the Cowboys in college with Thomas, so athleticism clearly runs in the family. Off the field, Thomas seems to be another great fit. He possesses the characteristics and vision you like to see at Notre Dame. After speaking to him you can tell he just gets it. While talking to him it was refreshing to hear some of the similar sentiments I have heard from other players who have newly arrived to ND. He spoke about the team welcoming him, the brotherhood they have, the genuine care and guidance the coaches give to their players, all while sounding extremely grateful. This seems to be a common theme amongst this team, which has to make Irish fans feel good about the direction of this program. Read the interview below!

What were your expectations of Notre Dame vs the reality of being at Notre Dame?

"I wasn't really expecting everyone to be so accepting. Usually when you transfer to a new school, not everyone accepts you. But getting up here I feel like the players were super welcoming and really made me feel like, because obviously we're all competing at the end of the day for each others job, but I think the players here do a good job of differentiating between friendship, brotherhood and competing. I think everyone pushes each other to be great and no one really has too much animosity or envy towards anyone."

Last time you talked to the Tribune, you mentioned some of your goals were building relationships, learning the playbook and getting your body right. How have those goals been going and do you have any new goals?

"Yeah of course. I think for the most part I feel good about those goals and accomplished most of them. Some of them are forever ongoing, you can get better and better at them, but I feel like I learned the playbook and I have a good grasp of that. As far as relationships go I feel like I know all my teammates and the relationships are great. I feel like those goals have been accomplished. My new goals are just getting on the field whether it be safety or nickel, hopefully both. I just want to get better as a player. Get better at the things coach O'Leary and the coaches think I need to work on, and just turn those into positives."

Where do you see yourself fitting into the defense? Corner? Safety?

"Yeah it's still both but mainly the Nickel spot for sure."

Can you talk about Coach O'Leary, Coach Golden and Coach Freeman?

"Yeah for sure. I'll start with Coach O'Leary just because I'm with him the most. I mean honestly he's just a great guy. He called me like 4 or 5 times while I was on break. He's just a great guy, you can tell he really cares about the players aside from football. As far as coaching wise, I think he's great. I've learned so much more just from being here one semester. Playbook wise, but not even just playbook, football intelligence. I'm understanding schemes, what offensive coordinators are trying to do, how they plan to attack and the ways they want to attack the Nickel. Learning formations and getting more comfortable with understanding route combinations. As far as that goes, I think Coach O'Leary has done a tremendous job in helping me expand my game and learn more. I've been in college 4 years and I know the basics, but he's helping me see the game more in terms of how he sees it, how a defensive or offensive coordinator sees it. It really opened my eyes."

"Coach Golden, he's like all business, but he's a great guy as well. I think what I'm learning from him is, I mean, he has NFL experience and he's been where I want to be, just listening to him and everything he says, I mean just picking his brain. Same thing as Coach O'Leary, he's helping me understand the game in broad terms and not just from my position. Understanding how the game works, I think they've both done a great job with that."

"Coach Freeman is great. Everything that you see, I mean he's the real deal. I think he's the ultimate player's coach. He most definitely has the player's best interest at heart. He always talks about the bumpy road to getting better, and standing in the middle. That's probably the biggest thing that he said that stuck with me. Being able to stay in the middle, don't get too high if you're having a good game, make sure you don't get too confident. You may have a bad game or make a bad play, but you need to stay in the middle and not get too up or too down. I think that's what stuck with me the most of anything he has said. As far as the program, he has done so much. We have networking events all the time. He really understands the game after football. He tries to get us to understand that. I think he's doing a good job of that as well."

How does Coach Balis and the Strength and Conditioning Program compare to Oklahoma State?

"It's honestly so much different than Oklahoma State. I don't know if you work out (reminded me I need to get back to that...) there's so many different ways and coach Balis method is more geared to being able to move, be mobile, to be strong in the right places, be strong where it matters to help your speed and athletic ability. I think he does a great job of that. It's a totally different workout but I think it will benefit me to have the experience of both (ND and OKST) Oklahoma State was more old school lifting. It was benching heavy, squat heavy, you're going to get really big. I think that's good, especially coming out of high school you need that. But I think coach Balis' program is really, really good. I think he's one of the best in the nation. Since coming here I feel like my vertical jump has increased, my speed has increased, pretty much everything. The workouts are hard, we're always moving, sweating a lot, I love it. I love Coach Balis and the whole strength staff."

Who are the leaders on Defense?

"I think there's a couple. I think all of our linebackers, Marist, JD, Kizer, I think all three of those guys. I think they're all leaders. I think everyone on the defense looks up to them as far as if something goes wrong, if we need to meet or know when a meeting is, we kind of look to those guys. Then Cam Hart and Dj Brown. People look to them to get the juice going. If they have any questions about the defense, they're probably going to ask one of those guys."

Who is the funniest guy on the team?

"Definitely for me, I'm going to have to say Jaden Mickey. He's a character. He's a great, great guy, but definitely a character."

Who is the baddest, most intimidating guy on the field?

"Botelho. Botelho definitely takes that award. If anyone says anything different, I'm questioning their opinion. His mindset is all business. When it's time to put pads on, all business!"

Who is the best trash talker on the team?

:laughing: "Uh I think this one goes to Jay Mickey as well!"

Who is your favorite NFL team?

"Growing up I really didn't have a favorite NFL team. To be honest with you, I really didn't watch a lot of football growing up. I was more of a basketball player and didn't start playing football until later, but now that my brother is in the league, probably the Cowboys. (The only time I will approve being a Cowboys fan....)"

What NFL player would you compare yourself to/inspire to be like?

"That's a good question, so many players. :pause: I think Budda Baker, just his tenacity and the energy he plays with. Tyrann Mathieu as well, speaking of safeties. I think those are probably the two safeties I watch the most and model my game after the most. As far as Nickel goes, I really like Kenny Moore from the Colts. I think he's a big time play maker. I like Denzel Ward as well, he plays outside obviously but I like the technique he uses."

I saw in your last interview with us you mentioned some of your hobbies were reading and movies. Any good books or movie recommendations for the Irish fans?

" I have two must read books, The Alchemist and then As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. As A Man Thinketh is a good one. It's about finding purpose, and how your thoughts lead to your actions."

"Must watch movie, I will go with the Avatar series. The new one is really good, I like it better than the first one. It's really good, you should watch it!"


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