Former NFL player Clay Harbor addresses student-athletes

In his own words, Clay Harbor was an average football player on an average high school team, yet his journey into professional football was anything but average.
Harbor grew up in Dwight and was a three-sport athlete for the Trojans.
He was an Interstate Eight All-Conference selection his final three years of high school in all three sports—football, basketball and track and field. Dwight and Coal City were conference opponents at the time and as Harbor remembers, “every time we’d go to Coal City it was to lose—basketball and football.” He shared that memory when addressing student athletes at Coal City High School’s first annual Senior Athletic Banquet.
After high school, Harbor enrolled at Missouri State University and scored a spot on the football team alongside his brother, Cory.
Redshirted his freshman year, Harbor got on the field for 11 games the following season and earned All-American honors. By the close of his senior season he had racked up multiple accolades— All-Conference,
All-American and Player of the Year. He was selected as one of 20 players to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine and he fared well.
As the 2010 NFL Draft got underway, Harbor recalled sitting in a small hotel room in his hometown of Dwight with his dad and his brother, “waiting and hoping to get that call from the NFL.”
When the phone did ring, it was Andy Reid asking Clay if he wanted to be a member of his team. The answer of course was yes and as the 125th pick, Harbor was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round.
“It was such a great moment being able to get drafted coming from Dwight and a small college,” said Harbor, who played three seasons with the Eagles before moving on to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would also play with the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints before closing out his NFL playing career.
“I wish I could say that road was easy, something I knew was always meant to happen, a road that was smooth sailing, and something that I just knew was something I was going to do. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Harbor told the Coaler athletes.
“To say I was rather underprivileged would be to put it nicely. I grew up in a trailer court with 10 family members. We didn’t have a car, we didn’t have a phone, we didn’t have cable and a lot of people don’t know that about me. I didn’t come from the perfect family. My parents were never married, there were a lot of family issues. Do I say this for sympathy or anything like that, no. I say that because the situation doesn’t matter, what matters is where you are going and what you are able and willing to do,” he said.
Harbor had a dream and was willing to do anything to chase it. He shared that from a young age he decided he wanted to change his circumstance and his family’s.
“I didn’t want my Mom to walk everywhere, she never had a car and I got my drivers license before she did. I didn’t want to not have a cell phone or a house phone or to have to put quarters in a machine to make a call. I didn’t want to have to worry about getting to the bus to get to a game, lunch tickets or food stamps. I wanted to change my family’s trajectory and that is what spurred me to become something more than my current situation,” Harbor said.
Through hard work and determination, Harbor was able to achieve his dream.
Enrolling in college, earning a scholarship and having a career in professional sports—he’s currently a sports analyst. He’s also a consultant and speaker, and the latter is what brought him back to Coal City. He came to speak on what he calls his four quarters to victory—discipline, good habits, a powerful why and resilience—traits necessary for success.
“Discipline, to me, is trading what you want now for what you want most,” Harbor said, noting that although the word often comes with a bad connotation–as if one is in trouble—his meaning is something completely different, “it’s disciplining yourself,” and it's something one has to choose for themselves everyday.
Good habits are another key to finding success, “your outcomes are literally a measure of your habits. You will never change your life until you change something you repeatedly do. You gotta make your bad habits hard,“ Harbor said.
And, you have to have a powerful why. “Find something that is important to you, you will quit if you don’t have a strong why and when you find your why, you will find your way,” Harbor said.
To achieve success, to claim victory everyone needs to be resilient and with that . Harbor reminded the student-athletes that failure is part of success, not the opposite of it.
“If you don’t fail you are not trying, so you got to keep getting up and be resilient,” he said.
By being disciplined, developing good habits, finding his why and being resilient, Harbor changed the trajectory of his life and along the way has helped his family. He’s found success and through his work is assisting others in finding their own success.
“If you have discipline and trade what you want now for what you want most and if you have good habits and a powerful why—something that drives you when you don't feel like getting up in the morning and don’t feel like going on anymore— and have resilience and realize that failure is not the opposite of success but part of success you will be successful, you will become great,” Harbor said in closing.