REDSKIN LINEBACKER Ken Harvey was so down and out during his
junior year at Lanier High that after his football coach labeled
him "a loser," he dropped out of school for a semester. Harvey
searched for answers on the streets of his hometown of Austin
before coming to understand that he had them inside himself all
This is an article from the Nov. 20, 1995 issue
"I just needed to believe in myself," says Harvey, who realized
that poor grades and a worse attitude were giving him a bad
image. "Then I knew I had a chance to do anything." Harvey spent
his time out of school working for $3.25 an hour as a line cook
at the local McDonald's, which is a far cry from the four-year,
$11 million free-agent contract he signed with Washington in
March 1994. Now 30, Harvey has played in the NFL for eight
seasons, has 65 1/2 career sacks, and last February made his
first Pro Bowl appearance.
But Harvey knows that life is never as simple as this brief
biography might suggest. Five years ago he and his wife, Janice,
lost their first child, Nathaniel, to sudden infant death
syndrome. "I still look at life on the good side," says Harvey.
"I think everything I've been through has allowed me to look at
things in the proper perspective."
In March, while looking at his 6'2", 245-pound frame in the
mirror of a weight room near his Phoenix home, Harvey was struck
with an idea for a children's story. A simple parable in the
tradition of Hans Christian Andersen's fables, Harvey's story,
The Glass Neighbor, tells the tale of a grouchy old man who
doesn't realize that his neighbors have placed a huge mirror in
front of his home. Thinking the image in the glass is that of a
crabby new neighbor, the old man rails at the mirror. He becomes
so frustrated that he hurls a rock at his reflection, shattering
the glass. Realizing that deep down he is not the cantankerous
person he seems to be to his neighbors, the old man changes his
"It's just something I thought I could read to my kids [Anthony,
4, and Marcus, 2] when they're old enough," says Harvey. "But if
anyone goes into a game thinking that because I wrote a
children's book, I might be soft, they'll be surprised."
After finishing up at Lanier High, where he did not play
football for the Vikings his senior season and therefore was not
recruited for college ball, Harvey attended Laney Community
College in Oakland and later matriculated at Cal. He was an
All-Pac-10 selection for the Golden Bears and was voted the most
valuable player of the Senior Bowl. The Cardinals made him the
12th overall pick of the 1988 draft, and Harvey quickly
established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the
league, leading his team in sacks every season but his rookie
year. When Buddy Ryan took over as Arizona's coach after the
1993 season, though, he opted to sign some of his ex-Eagle
defenders rather than Harvey, who became one of the most
sought-after free agents on the market. Harvey was especially
pleased to accept Washington's lucrative offer--which was made
less than two days after Harvey first visited the Redskins'
facilities in Ashburn, Va.--because it gave him the opportunity
to face off against his former team twice a year. "It's a little
revenge," says Harvey, who started off slowly this season but
has 54 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble
recovery in his last six games. "But I'm not vengeful," he says.
"I used to be, but I'm not anymore." Harvey knows that kind of
attitude doesn't reflect well on a person.