MIAMI (WSVN) - A former professional football player from South Florida has traded one helmet for another as he begins a second chapter in his life.
Jacory Harris, who grew up in Liberty City, first suited up as a Miami Northwestern Bull, then as a Miami Hurricane, a Philadelphia Eagle and a Montreal Alouette for the Canadian Football League.
Despite his athletic accomplishments, Harris said, nothing is more fulfilling than suiting up as a Miami-Dade firefighter.
“It absolutely means everything. I’ve never wanted people to see me as just a football player,” he said. “It made me feel more human, just being able to help somebody and knowing that I made a difference in their lives.”
Harris was literally thrown into the fire shortly after graduating from the Fire Academy in July.
“You never know when you’re going to get that career fire that’s going to be grueling — all night, 12 hours — and I actually got that on my second shift,” he said.
Now 30, Harris said, he feels honored to help those in the same neighborhood who helped mold him into the man he is today.
“It’s an amazing experience, man. They can even tell through the mask, ‘Hey, Jacory. That’s you?'” he said. “It’s a good feeling, and it’s a good experience, just basically knowing I’m doing something for my community.”
The former quarterback said the second act of his career has countless parallels with his gridiron past.
“That’s kind of what gets you up in the morning, knowing that you’re going to come to work and be around a bunch of guys that you call your brothers,” he said, “and that you know that if something is on the line, they’re going to be right there to save you. They’re going to be right there to help you, and I’ve been blessed to have it in both careers that I’ve chosen.”
Harris said he has his mother to thank for persuading him to choose his latest career path.
“She said, ‘Hey, you know, after football, you should consider being a firefighter,'” he said. “I was always interested in the medical side of things, and then being a firefighter still has that athletic, team bonding thing.”
But like everyone, Harris, still thinks about his first love.
“I do miss it. I can’t lie to you. It is special to me, something that I’ll always remember,” he said, “but at the end of the day, I’m beyond football right now. I’m on a different path in life.”
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