Standout middle linebacker Ken Harvey played 11 seasons in the NFL, suiting up six for the Phoenix Cardinals, followed by five of his best for the Washington Redskins.
The four-time Pro Bowler was a consistent team leader who, through a deadly skill set of size, power, speed, and sheer tenacity found his way to the quarterback 89 times during his fine career.
Due to his great run in Washington, Harvey was named to the team’s Ring of Fame and named one of the 80 greatest Redskins of all time.
In this fun and informative Card Back Q&A, we flipped over a few of his old cards and talked to him about the divine intervention at the gym, throwing lumber around the lumber yard, his model of consistency type of run in D.C. and so much more.
Tony Reid-The back of your second year 1991 Pro Set card mentioned how you’re then-agent Rusty Martin spotted you working out at the gym. After dropping out of school and trying to find your way, can you speak to how that interaction changed the trajectory of your life? What can you tell us about that divine intervention and what it means looking back now?
Ken Harvey-The agent was Joe Martin. They guy is probably pissed off that he didn’t get credit for that. I dropped out of school. During that time I was on my knees and in all honesty, like, God why am I here? Where do I belong? You feel like a failure. I felt like a failed in school. I felt like I failed my parents. I am just taking up space. I felt like God was saying you have a purpose and a destiny. Give me a reason to keep going on.
From that time on I started speaking things into existence. I was saying I was going to college. I didn’t know what He had in store for me but I knew I had a purpose and destiny. I knew the only way to get to college was probably playing football. Since I didn’t play my senior year of football, everybody was like how in the heck are you getting to college? Lo and behold, I met a guy at the gym. He told me about the junior college in Oakland, California. I have never been any further than I could walk. We had two parents, one car and seven kids. I took the chance of going to the junior college in Oakland. I met my wife at that college. It will be 35 years next year. It’s amazing how God can work. The proof is in the pudding. I took it all by stride. There were so many ways that things could have gone awry during this whole things even getting to the pros and after I got to the pros but everything worked out.
TR- Another really interesting personal note was found on the back of your 1992 Bowman card, as if stated “Legendary at the lumberyard where he used to work for tossing around 300 pound bundles of wood, Harvey now tosses around 300 pound lineman.” How did your time tossing wood around the lumber yard help you once you made your way to the gridiron?
KH– It was fun. Going to the junior college, they couldn’t pay me. I had to work and make money. The lumber yard gave me a job. It was kind of like the Karate Kid. Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you. Half of it was because I didn’t know. I won’t claim stupidity or lack of knowledge. Here is where the forklift could have got it but I didn’t know how to use the forklift so if you are strong enough to do it, do it. It was like make this your playground. There were opportunities where I would jump to the second floor instead of talking the steps. It was an opportunity to use wat you have to use as a tool for exercise to get better and that is what I was doing.
TR–The back of your 1997 Topps card mentioned how you earned a Hapkido black belt in karate in just 6 months time instead of the normal year it takes to earn the belt. Black belts generally take longer than that to attain, can you walk us through that experience for you and how it helped you in other facets of your life?
KH-I was busting my butt. Every generation looks for ways to get ahead. First it was ballet. Then it was martial arts. Then it was Pilates and things to try to get ahead. I grew up watching martial arts movies. I could speak and act like I knew it. I almost got beat up acting like I knew it. Ultimately, it was time to take some classes. I guess I looked like an athlete so the guy worked me super hard. My tongue was hanging out. Even though it seemed like a short period of time, I guarantee I worked harder than most people did in an entire year. I was trying to do football and this in the offseason. I would go to practice and then drive out there and do classes and drive back. I almost wrecked a couple of time because I fell asleep behind the wheel. It was hard. They were pushing. For me, it was that vision of how I need to get better and this would help with my hand speed and my balance. I assume it helped some.
TR-The back of your 1995 Topps card mentioned how you had been the team leader in sacks in six of your your NFL seasons at the time. That’s a pretty amazing statistic. Can you speak to your time excelling at getting to the quarterback and being a team leader during the prime of your career?
KH– I was one of those guys who did it for my teammates. I had an ego and you want to get there but I also wanted to help my team. I know what I am good at and I am going to master what I am good at. That was my thought. Then hopefully it helps the team out. There were so many players that played alongside me that didn’t get the credit but they were the ones that set up everything and took the double teams and it made me look good. On one hand I would like to say it was me and I was a team leader but the realization is that it why football is a great game. You may have individual superstars but it really comes down to teamwork and that is really what made me a better player.
More with Ken Harvey here.