Oakley (Calif.) Freedom linebacker Kyle Harmon's mother and father inspired his tireless work ethic, and his long journey to Cal

Oakley (Calif.) Freedom linebacker Kyle Harmon's late father and graveyard-shift-working mother have instilled in him a relentless work ethic, and now, he'll be bringing that iron will to Cal.

When Oakley (Calif.) Freedom linebacker Kyle Harmon first started playing football, his father Kevin, a former Weber State football player, and a Palo Alto (Calif.) wrestling and gridiron star, used to pay his son's teammates if they beat him in conditioning. Kevin -- who passed away three years ago -- was his son's greatest critic, but also his truest believer.

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1748281-freedom-lb-kyle-ha... "Ever since I was a little kid, he would always be on me, telling me I wasn't living up to my full potential," said Harmon. "He'd always tell me to go 110 percent. He always said, 'Hard work pays off.'"

After his career at Weber, Kevin Harmon got looks from some NFL teams -- including the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles -- but nothing stuck. He settled into a career in construction for 22 years, building his life on his strong back, until he could work no more.

For much of his son's life, Kevin was in and out of hospitals with congestive heart failure. Still, he wanted his son to be tough. Even with his own heart failing him, he made sure his son's was strong. 

He and Kyle's mother, Cherri, made sure that Kyle could overcome whatever obstacles life threw at him, because they knew those obstacles were coming. They wanted their son to be iron. 

That's why, when Kyle Harmon got the offer he'd wanted for three years, on Saturday, he had four words for the man who offered it, California head coach Justin Wilcox: "I'm ready to go."


The Bears' newest commit was forged in Antioch, Calif., with his father on disability because of his heart, an ailment that runs in his family (Harmon has been tested, and come out clean, but it's something he keeps his eye on). Cherri worked the graveyard shift as a healthcare worker at a care facility for mentally disabled children and young adults, so she could be a part of her son's life, and take care of her husband. She left the house at 10 p.m., every night, and worked until 8 a.m., every day.

Kyle Harmon was never big enough, but he was fast enough. He spent his youth in what he called "the projects," being chased for what little he had. 

Not once in three years covering him has Harmon ever complained about his circumstances, or felt that he should be given anything as recompense.

"I know that people have had a better life than me, with clothes, cars, shoes," Harmon said. "I just wanted to spoil my mom one day, and I did everything I could, however I could. My mom and my dad instilled a good work ethic in me, I guess."

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1734349-ncs-game-film-lb-k... Harmon's 4.0 GPA meant that he could have gone far afield for that education -- he had offers from Cornell and Columbia -- but he didn't want to leave his mother, who took him from Antioch to Oakley, away from the rough streets.

Despite having offers from Fresno State, Colorado State, San Jose State, Utah State and UNLV, among others, Harmon chose Cal Poly-SLO, because of the academics, and the proximity to home. Harmon didn't want to play a higher level of football if that meant sacrificing education, or if it meant he'd be too far from home.

"[I] love that kid," said Scout national director of recruiting, Brandon Huffman. "I think that's an absolute steal for Cal. It was a complete steal for Cal Poly to get him, because I thought he was, at the minimum, a Mountain West-level player, but I thought he could play in the Pac-12."

Kevin made it to see his son play his first high school game, but finally succumbed on Sept. 25, 2013. Kyle said, he knows that Kevin has read every article about him, seen every game. His father's name, and the dates of his birth and death, are inked on Kyle's forearm. He sees them before every game, before every play. Always give 110 percent. Hard work pays off.

Staying close to home, for Kyle, was, in part, so that his mother, too, could see him. There were others who believed in him along the way, if only because of his insuperable work ethic. One was his youth coach, Mike Mortimer, who was on Harmon's official visit this weekend. Cal, as it happens, has been Mortimer's favorite college, Harmon said.

"He's a police officer in Antioch, and he's always been looking after me, during youth football, and the first year after my dad passed, that role kind of increased," Harmon said.

When Harmon was young, and his father was handing out bills to his teammates if they out-ran him, Harmon's greatest motivation was to save his father money. Now, he's running fast enough -- and hitting hard enough -- that he'll be saving his mom some money, too. His commitment to Cal means no plane flights across the country, or even expensive drives down the coast. It's just a $9.50 roundtrip BART ticket.

"Cal is even a better fit for me, because it's top-of-the-line education, and it's right there," Harmon said. "There's a new BART station getting built about two minutes away from my house, so you can get on BART and be in Berkeley, in no time."

Above all, college will be free. That doesn't mean that it will be -- or has been -- easy.


Over the last three years, Harmon has repeated one phrase like a prayer, when thinking about an offer from the Golden Bears: "They won't regret it."

http://www.scout.com/high-school/california/story/1643450-kenion-trainin... He came to campus time after time after time, for games and camps and seven-on-seven practices, culminating in an unofficial visit on the final home date of the year, against UCLA. Former head coach Sonny Dykes attended his final high school game -- the North Coast Section title game loss to Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. But, that staff -- without a defensive coordinator since the end of that UCLA game (though Art Kaufman wasn't formally removed from his post until mid-December) -- didn't extend an offer. 

He had the bench press record at Oakley (Calif.) Freedom, as a freshman, with 245 pounds. He bested that this year, benching 305. He set the power clean record his year, at 310 pounds. He racked up a school-record 405 tackles in three seasons, smashing the previous mark of 256, set by Grinnell College's David Ternes. By the end of his junior season, Harmon had 259. Harmon blew past that, as a senior, with another 146 stops as a senior. He'd earned the BVAL's Defensive Player of the Year two straight seasons.

"You always want to strive for the big things," Harmon said, "but you can't forget about the little things. It was an honor, but there was more for me. There is more for me to go out there and achieve."

He'd gone from a 195-pound potential Mountain West safety to a 229-pound bonafide Power 5 linebacker. He just didn't have the one offer he wanted. Then Dykes was, himself, relieved of his duties, and Harmon had his shot.

After visiting UNLV nine days ago, Harmon arrived back home, and got a call. 

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1746796-five-takeaways-hir..."I was sitting, watching TV, and one of the assistants called me and told me that coach Wilcox was coming out to my school to see me," Harmon said.. I thought somebody was joking around with me. I said, 'Alright,' hoping it was real. Sure enough, the next day, coach came out and saw me. We sat down, one-on-one, in the locker room."

Wilcox -- who, himself, coached linebackers at Cal from 2003-05 -- liked what he saw on tape, but he liked the man in front of him, even more.

"He said he liked the idea that I chose Cal Poly over the Mountain West schools because of academics," Harmon said. "After we were done, he said he'd call me in 24 to 48 hours, to see where he stood, and what's going to happen with the new staff. On Wednesday morning, he called me and invited me out for an official visit, and so I went on the official visit. I talked to him a couple times there, and on Saturday night, as we were waiting for the ferry to arrive to the City, he pulled me aside and offered me a scholarship, and I accepted it on the spot."


It was appropriate that Harmon's host this weekend, during his official visit -- the visit that saw him commit to the Bears -- was walk-on running back Patrick Laird. He's had to earn his stripes, too. Harmon picked his brains about whatever he could, from the new coaches to the program to the school. He spent time with his future teammates, and bonded, but the highlight, of course, was that moment at the ferry terminal.

Wilcox, Harmon said, is "a Bill Belichick-type guy." The former linebackers coach -- the son of a farmer, and an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, connected with Harmon, the son of a construction worker.

"You see him walk in a room, and his presence can be felt," Harmon said. "He's got the reputation of running a sound defense, tops in the country, wherever he's at -- Washington, USC, Wisconsin, now it's going to be at Cal, where he'll run the show. He definitely has a personality to him, too, when you sit down and talk to him, one-on-one."

http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1750548-pac-12-recruiting-...Above all, Harmon said, Wilcox is "for sure" a man his father would have liked. 

"No doubt about that," Harmon said.

There were, of course, tears after the commitment, though Harmon didn't say from whom.

"I was actually with my mom, my god-mom and mentor were on the official visit, and I was talking to them, when coach Wilcox pulled m aside, and after I go done with coach Wilcox, I went up to them, and said, 'I guess I'm coming to Berkeley,'" Harmon said. "They were super-excited. My mom was. All the support they'd give me, and all the great things they have for athletes, all the resources, she was really excited."

So was Harmon. For about a minute. Then, the voice of his father crept in: Now, the real work begins. Time to keep running.

"I was happy, and I was really happy for my mom, because she absolutely loved it. She knew I was going to be in good hands. I was excited, with her, but deep down, I knew the real work was going to start, and it's started already," Harmon said. "I think I have a lot to offer, whether it be on special teams, offense, defense. Wherever you put me, I'm going to give my best effort, no matter what. I don't want to talk about it; I want to be about it. I told coach Wilcox that. I'm not going to come in and be big-mouthed, and I'm not going to disappoint them. I just want to show them with my actions."

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