Roman Harper looking for perfection

Heading into the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game, Roman Harper may have been the least well known of the four Tide defenders participating. But even though he played well at corner, the Prattville native wasn't satisfied. "My Dad always told me, ‘You want to get your name in the paper.' And you don't get your name in there for just tipping the football"

Harper was talking about a play where he read pass immediately and used his athleticism to break in front of the receiver only to have the pass glance off his fingertips. "You get your name in the paper for an interception," Harper continued. "I guess it's maybe perfectionism on my part--you could say that. But I didn't think it was that great a game. I had a chance to intercept one ball, and I should have when I had the chance."

"I think I faired pretty well," Harper continued. "The main difference between high school and the all-star week was the speed of the game. It was way faster, and you really can't take a play off. If you take a play off, you're gone. You've got to be in shape and get your rest in the huddle. Sometimes in high school you can rest during a play, but you can't do that or you won't play. You've got to be on your toes all the time."

When Harper committed to Alabama last winter, most of the early speculation had him targeted for free safety. But the Tide coaches may have other plans for him now. "The last time I was talking to them, they were talking about cornerback," Harper related. "I worked strictly at corner (during all-star week). There was only one true corner there, and that was Anthony Madison. Everybody else played safety. Besides Anthony, I was the only one with even a little bit of experience at corner, so I played it. I think I adjusted to it pretty well."

Shown with fellow defensive back signee Charlie Peprah (on the right) at Alabama's A-Day scrimmage, Harper (in the yellow shirt) is expected to get an early look at cornerback this fall.

Harper reports he's a "little over" six feet tall and around 175 pounds, which would translate ideally at corner. "The coaches are telling me that's good size for a cornerback," Harper said. "So I guess that's where they want me. They've also told me they like my range."

Harper played quarterback and free safety his senior year in high school. On defense, he finished the season with 58 tackles and four interceptions in limited playing time, having broken his leg during the year. As a quarterback, he accounted for over 800 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns. Harper was an All-County, All-Metro and Birmingham News All-State pick. Prattville finished 9-2 on the season with Harper their offensive MVP and team captain.

"In high school I mainly played cornerback, quarterback and free safety," Harper said. "The coaches tried to get me the ball--tried to let me distribute it. They wanted my hands on the ball every time. If something went wrong, then maybe I could make a play."

Harper seriously considered Troy State during the recruiting process, mainly because an older brother plays for the Trojans. "My brother warned me that (college football) was a lot faster," Harper said. "The main thing he keeps on telling me is ‘You've gotta be in shape. You've got to get stronger.' I think he believes I have the athleticism to play, but I've got to get stronger so I can compete."

And with that advice in mind, the former Prattville star has been getting an early jump on conditioning. "I've been lifting weights and running every now and then. Not that much--certainly not as much as I need to," he admitted. "The workout program Coach Pollard (Alabama's Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Football) sent me is pretty hard. It follows pretty closely what they do in Tuscaloosa. It's a lot of stuff. I use the high-school field house when I work out. It keeps you busy for over an hour and a half."

As commonly happens on the high school level, the best athlete on the team (in this case Harper) ends up at quarterback. "Playing quarterback helped me to learn about what the defense and offense are doing," Harper explained. "And playing at free safety carried over, too. I see what offenses are trying to do to beat a defense. So I think my knowledge of the game is probably my biggest strength. I kind of know where to be at the right time. I was quick in high school, but I don't know if I'll still be compared to college. But I try to keep an eye on what's going on. I think my strength is my smarts for the game."

Harper wore No. 15 in high school, but with Freddie Milons currently claiming that number, he thinks he might like No. 30, which he wore during the all-star game. And he wants to get to Tuscaloosa as soon as he can. "I'll get there in early July," Harper related. "I want to celebrate the fourth with my family, but after that I want to go. I'll be there the second half of summer term, so I can get a jump on things.

Tide Cornerbacks Coach Chris Thurmond, shown here during spring practice, recruited Harper to Alabama and will be his position coach as well.

"I already know all the new guys pretty much. Von Ewing has come to my house a couple of times. Me and Von are close, and Anthony (Madison) is cool, too. I got to know Freddie Roach pretty well at the all-star game, and Juke King was my roommate. Juke gets real quiet; he doesn't like to say much. But once you get to know him, he's OK. It's the quiet ones you've got to watch out for. Freddie and Von are pretty big guys. I'll stand behind them if the going gets rough. At least that's what I'm hoping for," Harper joked.

Besides the chance to join his new teammates, Harper is also looking forward to beginning work with Chris Thurmond, his position coach who also recruited him to Alabama. "He's an excellent guy; I really enjoyed him," Harper said. "My parents are in love with the guy. He would come by, and my Mom would cook for him. So they were all for me coming to Alabama. I really enjoyed Coach Thurmond, and that was one of the main reasons I committed. He really knew what he was talking about, and I wanted to be coached by him.

"Of course with my parents liking him, now I can't complain to them. But I'm hoping I don't have too many complaints."

Like every freshman preparing to go away to college for the first time, Harper has some specific goals in mind. "First, I'd like to do pretty well in the classroom--that's my main goal," he related. "I'll try for Honor Roll. Maybe if I make Honor Roll my parents will give me a nice car. Football-wise, I'd like to come in and play. But if I have to redshirt, I understand.

"Everybody has the goal to go in and play, but everybody has to know their role on the team. If my role is not to play but to be a practice player or a sub or a special teams player--that's what I'm willing to do. I don't mind sacrificing for the team. I just want to compete. That's my main goal. So long as I'm competing, I'll be just fine--whether I play this year or not."

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