Eagles draft Clay Harbor in fourth round

For the first time, the NFL added a third day to its annual amateur draft, primarily with a goal of boosting television ratings in prime time.

That made the event much longer for agents, reporters, fans, commissioner Roger Goodell ... and especially for players not taken in the first three rounds. Those projected by some to go in the first three rounds of the draft that fell to the fourth — like 2006 Dwight High School graduate Clay Harbor — had another night to lie awake wondering if their call would ever come.

Harbor's call did come Saturday, but not immediately after the draft resumed at 9 a.m. at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Philadelphia Eagles chose Harbor with the 27th pick of the fourth round and the 125th pick overall. He was home in Dwight when veteran Eagles coach Andy Reid called to give Harbor the news.

"I was expecting to go a little bit earlier," Harbor said Monday night. "I was thinking maybe late in the third originally. As we started to get deeper into the fourth, I was getting a little worried. Then I got a call from the Eagles, and coach Reid asked how I'd like to be an Eagle. I said I'd love that, and he said it was great because they were going to draft me. I'm very grateful for the opportunity. No matter where you think you should go going in, you don't think about slipping or anything after you're drafted. It's just a good feeling all around."

ESPN broadcast all seven rounds of the draft. Harbor chose to remain at home and use the network to keep him informed rather than travel to New York.

"I kind of hung out with friends and family," he said. "I watched the first few rounds with some friends, and then after I was drafted, I got together with my family. I was in Dwight for the whole thing. ... Afterward I talked to everybody. All of my old buddies and my old teammates called to tell me good luck in Philadelphia."

Philadelphia has been in the NFL since 1933. While the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl and have not won an NFL Championship since 1960, they have been one of the league's most consistently successful teams over the past decade. Since 2000, the Eagles have only finished below .500 once.

"It's a storied franchise," Harbor said. "They have a lot of die-hard fans who want nothing more than to win. I plan to help them do that and build a winner up there. Obviously they traded Donovan McNabb and they had 13 draft picks, so I'm a part of quite a big rookie class. I am looking forward to being able to work with some of the other guys on the team. We're the youngest team in the NFL now, but we're not going to let that slow us down."

McNabb played 11 seasons with the Eagles before being traded to Washington earlier this offseason. Former second-round pick Kevin Kolb is the front-runner to claim the starting quarterback job McNabb vacated. Michael Vick is also on the roster, and former Northwestern QB Mike Kafka — who was a teammate of Harbor's at the East-West Shrine Game — was drafted by the Eagles three picks before they chose Harbor.

"There is some sense of a new start after Donovan with him having been the quarterback there for about 10 years," Harbor said. "I'm excited about it, and about getting out there and working with Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick and developing a nice relationship with them. Mike Kafka, who I played with in an All-Star game, I already know is a real good guy. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to play with him."

There was speculation that the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Harbor — who was primarily a wide receiver at DHS before playing tight end at MSU — might be used in unfamiliar roles in the NFL. It is likely that the Eagles, who have tight ends Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram and      Martin Rucker on their roster, will move him from his collegiate position, according to Harbor.

"Some teams looked at me as a possible fullback or a slot receiver or a tight end," he said. "I think for them [the Eagles], the plan is for me to stay at tight end."

Harbor caught 59 passes for 729 yards and four touchdowns during his senior season at MSU, but it was more than his pass-catching ability that caused the Eagles to draft him.

"This is what we saw in Clay," Reid said on the Eagles website. "We watched his tape, obviously, and we think he's a good football player, even though it's in the lower level, he's a good football player. I think what he gives you is he gives you somebody who's big enough where he can work in line, at the line of scrimmage.

"I'm not saying he's an offensive lineman playing there but from a tight end standpoint he can control a defensive end, and/or linebacker and he is willing to stick his nose in there and do that. I think when you see him run his routes, I think you will see a very skilled athlete and he can transfer all those numbers to playing football, which is important and takes him out of the workout warrior mode and puts him in as a football player."

Harbor is on a very small list of players from the Morris Daily Herald region to play professional football. He is the 16th Missouri State player to be drafted and the first since 2000.

"It's a great feeling," Harbor said. "Hopefully it can show the kids around here that even just going to college to play sports doesn't happen very often. If you work hard enough, you can get that kind of opportunity. It doesn't matter where you play, whether you go to the city in Chicago to play or go to a smaller school or who you play for. If you work the hardest that you can and make the most of your opportunity, you can follow your dream and do whatever you want to do with your life and your career."

Having one of their own in the draft caused some Dwight residents — even those who do not have relationships with Harbor — to follow along this weekend.

"I think it's super, to see a local kid do well," Dwight resident Joe Urbelis said. "I don't know him, but I watched some of the draft. I saw Friday night that he was in something like the top eight of the prospects left out there, and it hit me that he was the kid from Dwight, so that was pretty neat to see."

Becoming an NFL draftee is not something Harbor did on his own — a fact he was sure to remember afterward.

"I would say I have to thank my family who supported me and gave me great support the whole way, especially my mom, my dad, my aunt, my grandma and my brother," he said.

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