Regarded as a fierce tackler and tone setter the strong safety recorded 789 stops, 614 solo in his 10-year career. The Carolina Panthers view Roman Harper as a smart, tough football player with exceptional leadership qualities. He topped the team with a career high four interceptions in 2014 and started all 32 regular season games the past two seasons. The 6-1, 205 pound 33-year old is fourth on the team with 73 total tackles, 46 solo in 2015 along with five pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
Denver’s 16th ranked offense (355.5 ypg) is the 14th rated passing (248.1 ypg) team in the league and 17th rushing (107.4 ypg) the football. Carolina has the sixth best overall defense (322.9 ypg), fourth versus the run (88.4 ypg) and 11th against the pass (234.5 ypg). “It’s all about playing fast on defense,” he replied explaining the basic elements to succeeding. “When you get there, get there with an attitude and when you hit guys, you’ve got to bring it. Force turnovers. Make the emphasis on things that matter and help you win ball games.” Although Harper believes in the shared team concept, individual execution is paramount to success. "Be your 1/11th of the defense," he said to crystalize the point.
Carolina is opportunistic topping the NFL with 39 takeaways. “It’s all the time. It’s just not words. We practice it,” he emphasized. “We keep track of turnovers all throughout the year in practice,” Harper said. “It’s amazing to see the carry over in that we are trying to run to the ball, punch the ball out. It’s almost natural when you get into the game where you’re reacting and trying to get the ball out. We are taking advantage of it. Sometimes the interception, the hardest thing about it is catching the ball. We have done a great job with that and we have to continue to do that for one more game.” Minimizing possessions is central to dictating the outcome. “The takeaway/turnover differential is usually the most telling stat in who won the game.”
Harper faces an old nemesis in the Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The two were on opposing sides in Super Bowl XLIV. Containing the most prolific signal caller in league history requires a specific strategy. “At the end of the day you have to make a play at some point,” he noted. “You have to make them kick field goals. You have to do things that make them uncomfortable and make them play left-handed. You can’t allow them to dictate all game long with an open play book and now you’re just playing second fiddle and catch up. You have to be attack oriented. If we can do that we give ourselves a chance and that’s all you can ask for in the biggest game in the world.”
Roman Harper becomes only the seventh Alabama defensive back to be part of a Super Bowl team joining Fernando Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jeremiah Castille (Denver Broncos), Anthony Madison (Pittsburgh Steelers), Don McNeal (Miami Dolphins), Charlie Peprah (Green Bay Packers) and Deshea Townsend (Pittsburgh Steelers).
Listen and watch Harper speak of his “family for life”. Also, Panthers Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott and Carolina TV Analyst/former NFL safety Eugene Robinson discuss the talents and contributions of no. 41.