Whether you are 10 years old and being chosen for a pickup game with your friends in the neighborhood or finishing your high school career and looking for a college, it's always good when people want you on their team.
Such is the case with one of the most interesting prospects on the 2002 Auburn recruiting board.
LaRon Harris is big, fast and athletic. He has good grades and a track record of performance on the football field.
Throw in the fact that he can play defensive tackle, which is an area of major need for the Tigers, and it is easy to see why signing Harris would be such a good fit for the Auburn football coaching staff.
"I started playing football when I was back in the fourth grade," the Kingsbury High standout tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Back then I wasn't real good. I was playing pee-wee ball and I never got in," he says with a chuckle. "I was a little fat dude and nobody would pick me to play."
A lot has changed since then. Harris has grown into a 6-3, 305-pound athlete who is quick enough to play linebacker and powerful enough to play offensive and defensive tackle. He helped Kingsbury High post an 8-4 record and advance to the second round of the state Class 3A playoffs.
Defensively, he averaged better than 10 tackles per game and added 16 sacks. Offensively, he served up pancakes like an IHOP waitress on Saturday morning.
When asked what his best position is, Harris says, "A lot of people would say linebacker, but I am not going to say that. I would like to, but I know I am not going to play there in college. My best position, I would say, is defensive tackle because of my weight and my strength. At the weight I am at now, I am big enough to push people around. I am still small enough to move and get around with no problem."
One of the last times he was clocked in the 40, he weighed an even 300 pounds and ran a 4.93. When he checked in at 280, he ran a 4.8 40. "When I weighed 307, I ran a 4.97," Harris notes.
He is a four-year starter on defense and almost a four-year starter on offense. "In the fourth game my freshman year, one of our starters got hurt on offense so I had to step in there," Harris remembers.
Harris is involved in an extensive series of weight training lifts. He has maxed out at 415 pounds on the bench press. "Power clean, I am not sure about," he says. "It is probably pretty high--300 and something. On the squat I haven't maxed out since my freshman year, but I work out with about 465."
Even though high school players are growing larger, it is not an everyday sight to see a 300-pounder lined up at middle linebacker. Harris admits it took some lobbying with his coach to get a chance to play the position this year. Once he got his shot, he became a fixture at the MLB spot and started the final five games of his senior season. "I always bugged coach about letting me play linebacker," Harris says. "One game, he let me play. He put me in the middle. Basically, he just wanted me to blitz, but when he didn't call blitz he saw that I was running sideline to sideline making plays and he was like, ‘Well, if he can play linebacker, why not let him play it?' I showed that I am versatile and that I can run, I have endurance and I can make plays anywhere."
That type of performance has made him one of the better prospects in the country this year and has attracted the attention of college coaches. Harris says that he has probably narrowed his choice of colleges to four schools--Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and hometown Memphis. He is scheduled to visit Auburn on Jan. 18th. He has already been to Arkansas and Memphis and will visit Tennessee on Jan. 11th.
Harris is being recruited for Auburn by Terry Price and says he really likes the defensive ends coach. He came to the Senior Mini Camp at Auburn this past summer that had top prospects from around the Southeast. Commenting on that trip to Auburn, he says, "The facilities are probably the best I have ever seen. They are in very good shape and look nice. They have a lot of different things (training equipment) that I haven't seen before. I also felt like family with the way they were treating me when I came to Auburn. Coach Price really treats me well. He is a really cool guy. I like the way he recruits people. He makes me feel sound I am the best player in the world."
LaRon Harris is a versatile athlete who runs well for such a large player.
The camp that Harris attended was stacked with prospects. The defensive tackle says he was impressed. "It was the best crowd of players that I have ever seen. I hurt myself before the camp and I didn't get a chance to participate (in the drills and tests), but they still offered me a scholarship." Harris also attended summer camps at Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Commenting on Memphis and the others he is considering strongly in addition to Auburn, he says, "It is close to home. They have a really, really good strength coach, who I was very amazed with. With Tennessee, I like the players, the coaches and the facilities and their tradition. At Arkansas, the coaches and players made me pretty much made me feel like family, too."
Tiger Ticket Extra: This versatile athlete has also played wide receiver, fullback and noseguard...With football season finished, Harris will turn his attention to the shot put. He has a best toss of 56 feet. He finished third in the state as a freshman and was second each of the past two years...Harris is in strong shape academically and says he is interested in majoring in either sports medicine or broadcasting in college.