RICHMOND, Va. — The NFL can be a humbling test mentally and physically. It’s a roller-coaster ride that never ends. One day a player can be on top of his game, and everybody loves him. The next day it can all come crumbling down.
Fortunately, Josh Harvey-Clemons knows exactly what such a roller-coaster ride is like after his college football experience.
The Redskins rookie linebacker suffered a hamstring injury during his senior season at Louisville, and the injury kept him from performing at 100 percent during the Combine. Harvey-Clemons was projected by many to be off the board by the fourth round. He instead fell to the seventh round, pick No. 230.
“I didn’t go when I wanted to,” Harvey-Clemons told Sporting News. “But I look at it as a blessing that I was still picked, and I’m here with a great organization. I just use it as motivation every day, and I feel like a lot of teams passed up on me.
“But at the end of the day I’m here, and I have to make the best of this opportunity.”
Being a starter in the SEC and in his home state is a dream for every young football player in the South. Harvey-Clemons is from Valdosta, Ga., about 243 miles north of Sanford Stadium.
Before he ended up at Louisville, Harvey-Clemons was living that exact dream. He arrived at Georgia as a five-star recruit from Lowndes High School and did not disappoint. Through his first two seasons, 2012 and 2013, he earned 11 starts in 25 games.
But his wake-up call came in 2014, when he was dismissed from Georgia’s football program after two failed drug tests. He transferred and had to sit out a season before he was able to play at Louisville as a junior in 2015.
Harvey-Clemons in Washington is reunited with a familiar name from his time with the Bulldogs. Kirk Olivadotti, the Redskins’ linebackers coach who has spent a total of 15 years on Washington’s staff, made a brief stop in the college football ranks and coached inside linebackers at Georgia from 2011-13 before he returned to the NFL in 2014.
“When I was with him at Georgia, he was a young kid and very talented. That was obvious,” Olivadotti said. “When we caught up with each other at the Combine, it was like I was talking to a different person. It was a mature young man that I got to talk to. That was a great testament to all the people that helped him get to this point.”
Before Harvey-Clemons was injured in 2016, he had become one of the best safeties in college football. Now the one-time five-star recruit who became a seventh-round draft pick must make the best of his current opportunity.
“The biggest thing is that the NFL is the great equalizer,” Olivadotti said. “It will humble you if you get too high, and if you get too low, it will spit you out. There’s really no time to think about where you went and what happened.
“Whether you’re a first-round pick, seventh-rounder or an undrafted free agent, it doesn’t matter because it’s really just about the work.”
Harvey-Clemons is not just fighting for a roster spot in Washington. He is also trying to earn a nickname in order to stand out.
The Redskins have four players named Josh on their roster, and three happen to be on defense.
“I just have to make plays,” Harvey-Clemons said. “Today, for example, they yell, ‘Josh,’ I turn around and they’re not even talking to me. It’s fun, though. That just means I have to make the best of it and make a name for myself.”
And according to the leader of the defense, cornerback Josh Norman, it’s every man — well, every Josh — for himself.
“Well, I know that ‘J No’ is already taken,” Norman said. “I’ve never been on a team with this many Joshes before. We have an offensive Josh. So many defensive Joshes. We even have a special teams Josh.
“Everybody is Joshin’ up this season. It’s going to be a Josh year.”