When the idea of interviewing Roman Harper was presented to me, the fan in me came out immediately. Roman Harper? From MY New Orleans Saints? Of course! When Roman called me for the interview he admitted to just waking up at about 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. After expressing my envy and chatting briefly about our hometowns (we're both from Alabama), we discussed the collective bargaining agreement and potential lockout, his performance in the first round of the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks, Cam Newton, and yes, even fashion and style.
Tamara: Did you make it to Dallas for the Super Bowl?
Roman: Yeah I did.
Tamara: I know that two of your friends and former Alabama teammates played in the Super Bowl (Charlie Peprah for the Green Bay Packers and Anthony Madison for the Pittsburgh Steelers). What was that like for you?
Roman: Oh, it was great. I was actually a big fan. Getting to go and see two of my best friends…Charlie Peprah was actually my roommate for 3 years so that was really cool. I’m glad he won because now all 3 of us have a ring so we can all brag to our Alabama guys about how we all came in together, all in the same defensive backfield together, and now we’ve all got Super Bowl rings. It’s just a real honor and a lot of people can’t say they’ve got that.
Tamara: How did you guys celebrate afterwards?
Roman: I didn’t get to celebrate with my guys, because, you know, everything in Dallas closes so early, and by the time Pep got done with all of his other stuff and getting caught up…I know how it was. You don’t get done until like 1:30,2 o’clock and just being able to settle down…So I went out with some other friends, but I talked to him and he was pretty happy, so I was just happy for him.
Tamara: That has to be cool now that all three of you have rings.
Roman: Yeah, you know…It’s something special. It’s really hard. A lot of people play and don’t ever get a ring and we all got ours within the first 5 years. Now we’re just trying to get another one. Whoever gets the second one can really brag.
Tamara: Well, I’m rooting for you.
Roman: Thank you.
Tamara: Just the week before you were in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and that was your second year.
Roman: Yeah, that was my second one. Last year I didn’t get to play because we were in the Super Bowl, but this year I got to play. It was fun going to Hawaii with some of my teammates. We had a great time. Most of it was getting to put a face and personality with our peers. You know that you’ve heard their names, but you don’t actually know them personally. Actually getting to hang with these guys…once I went over there I got to do that and I think that was the best part about it. That and getting to hang out in Waikiki. I haven’t done that since college. It was great to get to hang out and chill out. It was great weather. The rest of America is very cold, but not Hawaii.
Tamara: I read a lot of comments about you going to the Pro Bowl. Some people said that your last performance in the game against the Seahawks was reason enough why you shouldn’t go to the Pro Bowl. What do you have to say to those people?
Roman: Well, you don’t base the whole season off one game. Well, actually I only had two bad plays, but it is what it is. That’s the thing about opinions. Everybody has one, but not a lot of them count. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, so I don’t worry about that. As long as I go out there and ball and do me, I don’t really care.
Tamara: Ok. Assuming that everything gets worked out and there’s a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in place next month, I know that you will enter free agency.
Roman: Yes, that is true. It’s different for me. I’ve been playing for a while so the collective bargaining agreement has really made everything very murky. It has really bloodied up a lot of water when it comes to free agency. It’s a different year when it comes to free agency. Everything’s going to take care of itself. I’m not really too worried about it right now. I’m just enjoying myself on my vacation and just kicking back and relaxing. A lot of this stuff is not going to work out anytime soon. I know it’s going to be a process when all of the CBA and stuff gets handled. When it gets done, then I’ll worry about all of that.
Tamara: You guys were told to prepare for the lockout. Have you done anything in particular to prepare, just in case?
Roman: You should save your money, but you should do that anyway. You’re supposed to do that. I’ve been playing for 5 years now. I’ve done well with my money, so it’s not like I’m going to be hurting here. We don’t get paid in the off-season anyway, so it’s not even a big issue for me. I’ll be doing the same as normal.
Tamara: You mentioned that you’re relaxing now during the off-season. What else do you have planned?
Roman: I’m going to go out to LA in March and I will be out there for 2 or 3 months and after that I’ll be chilling. I’m trying to work out out there at my man Billy Miller’s place, The Factory. So I’ll be training and working out while I’m out there.
Tamara: A lot of talk that’s come up in connection with the CBA and potential lockout is that the average career of an NFL player is about 3 years. You’ve now played for 5 seasons. How did you ensure that you didn’t become part of that statistic?
Roman: Well, the average career of an NFL player is 3 years, but once you do some more research, if you go in the top 3 rounds, or the first 2 rounds, I think the average NFL career jumps up to 7 years. So I still haven’t even made that mark yet, so I’m still grinding on that. I was drafted in the second round so I’m trying to make that statistic, not that first 3. I was supposed to do a lot of this stuff (going in the second round), you know, so I’m just trying to live up to that and be better than what a lot of people thought I could be and just stay humble. Continue to grind and continue to work; that’s all I’ve ever done. Always trying to work at it and trying to be the best that I can be. That’s something that my Dad instilled in me—always working hard and always keeping your nose clean; staying humble, and treating everybody like you want to be treated. And just go out there and play and don’t think too much into it. Just be the best that you can.
Tamara: You probably don’t want to think about the day that you’re not playing football, but what do you see yourself doing after you’ve played your last game?
Roman: Umm…I don’t know. Maybe I will have married a rich woman who has a great job. I’ll be chilling back in Alabama somewhere by a lake or by some water, cutting my grass, chilling. I don’t plan on doing a lot. It should be fun, whatever I decide for that day, but I always told myself that I want to get 10 years in and then after that I’ll decide and see how I feel after 10.
Tamara: So you do plan to live in Alabama?
Roman: Well, no, not really. My parents live there so I’ll always have a residence there, somewhere to go, but it doesn’t mean I’ve got to live there. Sometimes, I feel like I need to go to a bigger city. I love Alabama, always will. I’m not saying I won’t have a place there, but I don’t know if I want to live there and raise my kids there.
Tamara: Oh, I understand. I feel the same way. (laugh)
Roman: Yeah, exactly. You know.
Tamara: So coming from the University of Alabama, how do you feel about the talent in the upcoming draft class that’s coming out of the Alabama schools like, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, and even Cam Newton and Nick Fairley from Auburn?
Roman: I’m pretty excited about it. Alabama’s had some great players the last couple of years, not only the University of Alabama, but just the state in general, including Auburn. This year they’re going to have a lot of first round draft picks, at least 4 to 5 between both schools. Cam Newton will be a first round guy, you just can’t pass up on him. We’ve got Marcell Dareus. Mark Ingram will be a first round pick. Julio Jones will be a first round pick. There are some talented guys. If they go out there and continue to play and work how they have, I think they will be just fine. I told Julio that he needs to go out there and perform well and continue to try to separate from DB's and he’ll be just fine, he’ll be a first round pick. I look at him now; he’s done that. I’m happy for him, I’m proud of him and I can’t wait to see and go against these guys.
Tamara: Well, I am a big Auburn fan so I have to ask, did it hurt seeing Auburn take the BCS National Championship?
Roman: It didn’t hurt. I actually picked Oregon to win, but Auburn did a great job up front, dominating the line of scrimmage, and Oregon couldn’t do anything with it. So at the end of the day, Auburn deserved it. They played a better game and when it really counted at the end of the game, Oregon couldn’t make the tackle. That’s the difference in a game.
Tamara: So moving away from football, I hear that you’re into fashion. Where did that interest come from?
Roman: I don’t know. I’ve just always liked clothes and shoes and it’s grown from there. I am where I am now so I’ve got plenty of shoes and plenty of clothes.
Tamara: Who are some of your favorite designers?
Roman: You know what? I like Obey lately. I don’t know why. I’m a big fan of Obey. I think Obey is one of my favorites right now.
Tamara: If someone told you that you had to give away all of your clothes and all of your shoes, except one piece, what would be the one piece that you would keep?
Roman: You know, I don’t know exactly what it would be, but it would definitely be a hoodie. I’m a big hoodie person. A hoodie and probably some jeans, a pair of denims, and I’ve got to have some Nike Dunks on or some J's and I can rock with it after that. I’ll be ok.
Tamara: Do you work with a stylist or do you pick your own clothes?
Roman: I pick my own clothes. No reason to pay someone when I think I’ve got it.
Tamara: How often do you shop?
Roman: It depends on where I am. I never say no. I try not to buy a lot, try not to splurge, but if I'm out somewhere and see something I like, I’ll get it. I don’t limit myself.
Tamara: Are you an online or in person shopper?
Roman: In person. I don’t do anything online. I don’t try clothes on either. That’s another downfall of mine. Sometimes the clothes don’t fit.
Tamara: So, I’ve only seen you rocking the partially gray hair. Do you ever color it?
Roman: No, never. I’ve had it since I was young. It started from there. When I was in 7thgrade, 8thgrade and it’s just never stopped. I won’t get rid of it. It’s part of who I am. If I came in with all black hair, I think all of my teammate would look at me crazy.
Tamara: Oh, I like the gray hair.
Roman: Trust me. It’s a conversation starter.
Tamara: Do you get teased about it by your teammates?
Roman: Oh yeah, they all teased me about it at first, but now they know it’s just me. Everybody questions it. They don’t know how old I am when they first meet me. But once they get to know me…everybody just knows that ‘Rome’s just got gray hair.’
Tamara: So, my last question is, where’s your Super Bowl ring right now?
Roman: It’s in Prattville with my parents. I don’t trust myself with it so I don’t even keep it. It’s at home with my parents somewhere. They’ve got it locked up. Hopefully, my Dad’s not walking around with it.
Roman Harper's foundation, Harper's Hope 4*1, will be hosting the 2nd Annual "A Sainted Weekend: Mentoring Youth to Strengthen Families" July 8-9, 2011, at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in his hometown of Prattville, Alabama. For more information on the weekend and his foundation, please contact N. Fobi at 562-618-3624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.