SWC’s star was an undersized defensive lineman who loved to hit when his high school coach flipped him to the other side of the ball.
“My freshman coach saw something I did not,” he said. “I thought there was too much into the running back position for me. That is why I would rather stay on the D-line. It was a lot easier than I expected. It was pretty much getting the ball and I would run.”
Harris holds the Jaguars record for most yards in a season with 1,128 yards in 2009. This year he set a new college career rushing record with an even 2,000 yards. His efforts, even on a scuffling team, have attracted much attention.
“I’ve had coaches actually fly down here to see me,” he said. “That’s when I decided that football is actually going to get me somewhere.”
Harris said he did not plan to play college football, even though he was successful in high school. Small for defensive linemen at 5’10”, 200 lbs., he said he planned to play basketball or run track. After learning more about SWC and its program, he decided to give football a chance.
Harris said he chose SWC because Coach Ed Carberry did not promise anything he could not deliver.
“I prefer to be told the truth than giving me the fairytales,” said Harris.
Athletic Director Terry Davis said he is a fan.
“He is a phenomenal athlete,” said Davis. “He has the burst of speed to really get going. He has the tools and the consistency. He is a true talent and that’s rare.”
Carberry said he is impressed with the progress Harris has made.
“There are two kinds of running backs, VHS and digital,” said Carberry. “A VHS running back sees it, thinks about it and then does it. A digital guy sees it, thinks it and does it all at once. Harris is a digital running back.”
In his first year at SWC Harris suffered a shoulder injury that he thought could end his career. Harris decided not to have the surgery and instead embarked on a seven-month rehab. He came back to participate with team workouts last spring.
“I’m just not a surgery type of person,” he said. “ I believe that it’s better to let stuff heal naturally.”
Players, coaches and trainers all have to communicate, said Harris. Working through the injury with the coaching staff, Harris said he was not going to let the injury stop him from his long-term goals of playing at a university.
“An injury, as long as I am able to bounce back from it, is not going to affect me and that’s exactly what happened,” said Harris. “The most important value is the relationship we have with each other. You are not going to have a united team if you can’t talk to each other. If you’re not able to have a conversation with your coaches.”
“A running back must have speed, agility, strength and patience, but one trait is often overlooked”, said Harris.
“The most important thing for you to have is reaction,” he said. “You gotta know where the D-linemans going and be able to act on what he’s doing. There are certain things you have to notice.”
Harris has been frustrated by the Jaguars’ meltdown after a great start. His last home game was not the ending he had imagined. On a muddy gridiron, the SWC Jags were walloped by Santa Ana, 35-17. Harris churned for 166 yards and a touchdown, but it was not enough to give his team the lift it needed.
At game’s end, Harris stood on the middle of field with his helmet in his hand and his uniform completely covered in mud. He got down on one knee with his helmet in his right hand and started to cry. His best fiend, teammate Marcus Clements, and quarterback Brett Nelson joined him and gave him words of encouragement.
“By the effort that everybody put in, I couldn’t ask for a better team and family,” he said.
Harris’ name will be immortalized in the history of SWC Athletics, but he said he is off to seek his next achievements.
“It’s a great moment in my career,” said Harris. “In any school that I go to, I plan to break some record. I like my name being known. I put in the work to keep my name so that everybody can remember it. I always want to be known.”
He admitted he did not know how to react when he started hearing from college recruiters.
“It’s a surprise,” he said. “I have never had anything like that happen. I’ve gotten these letters that they send to everybody, so I was not expecting much.”
Harris said big-time programs are reaching out.
“I hear from the Ol’ Miss coach at least once or twice a week,” he said. “I get a phone call or a Facebook message from the University of Cincinnati coach all the time. They really like me.”
Having to choose between three universities is a tough decision but a pleasant problem when both have offered full scholarships.
Harris has narrowed down his choices to University of Cincinnati, University of Georgia and is waiting to hear from University of Indiana. His decision will be made in mid-December, he said.
“If I had to choose between the three, it would be Cincinnati,” he said. “They were the main school that showed me love when they found out I had a shoulder injury. They stayed with me.”
Even though his football career is doing well, Harris still has academic goals.
“I want to be the first person in my family to get a degree,” he said. “I want to get a Masters’ in business and minor in drafting and engineering. Drafting and engineering was my main goal and then I got into business. I want to start my own business, but I still like making and inventing these new designs of buildings.”
Building structures will have to wait. Harris is too busy building a legend at SWC.