The three-star Harris stands just 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, but makes up for his average size with elite speed. He won MVP honors at the Tuscaloosa Nike Camp, and then, at Ole Miss's camp last month, posted a 34.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.49 40, one of the event's fastest times. His speed has earned him offers from much of the ACC and SEC, specifically "Purdue, Stanford, Wake Forest, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn, Harvard, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Tennessee [and Louisville]," as Harris told Oregon's Scout.com site, in an article in which he repeatedly praised the Pac-10, and Stanford in particular.
Amidst all those offers, Harris has narrowed down his candidate schools to five finalists, which he publically announced for the first time in an interview with TheBootleg.com this past week.
"In no particular order, it's Ole Miss, Tennessee, Stanford, Kentucky and Wake Forest."
Harris has not yet visited Stanford, though he does plan on taking an official to the Farm, and he plans on scheduling it for his bye week of his senior season. He has not decided on his other official visits yet.
Stanford is the clear geographical outlier of Harris' finalists, but the distance from Atlanta's southwest side to Stanford may not matter as much for Harris as for the typical recruit.
"Distance is something I think about, but I'm not particular about. I've been moving my whole life," said Harris, explaining that his dad's work with the military has moved the family throughout the country. "I've lived in six different places, so I have no problem readjusting to the situation at hand. Plus, my brother lives in Washington, in Seattle.
"I was born in DC. Then after DC, I moved to Florida, to Michigan, to Texas, to Washington, and then here. In fact, this is longest I've stayed in the same place, five years."
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Recruiting is a two-way street, for it is not just Harris evaluating and ranking schools. Even after they've offered, schools continue to evaluate Harris, and some may view him as more of a priority than others. We asked Harris, therefore, which staffs he hears from most.
"Right now, the most contact is with Tennessee and Ole Miss, and also Kentucky," he said. "Basically, my top five is who I talk to most. I get more mail from Ole Miss and Tennessee, but I'm speaking on the phone with everyone but Wake.
"I speak to [Stanford secondary] coach Mason once every two weeks or once every week. Right now, he's a coach I could see playing for for four to five years. He's a great person and a great guy who I respect a lot already. It's never dull. He's always telling me he's going to put me to the challenge when I come there, and that's what I want to hear. I don't want to hear I'm going to cruise through college. I want to get to the next level, and he's a guy who can do that."
Most every recruit gives academics lip service, and most every recruit Stanford offers does a convincing job of it (and, of course, may well mean it). For Harris though, there is no doubt as to his academic intentions, as a personal story has inspired his post-football career goals, and to reach those goals, he's planning on tackling one of the toughest gauntlets in modern-day American education – the road to an M.D.
"After football, I plan on taking the MCAT, going to med school and specializing in cardiology," he said. "When I was younger, I had an extra piece of heart tissue which caused a flutter removed, and I've become engaged learning about it. I want to help children with heart problems like mine."
Understandably then, a strong on-campus medical school is one of the key factors Harris is looking for in his ideal school.
"I just want a school that meets academic and athletic needs, not just one or the other," Harris said. "I want to be in BCS bowl games and also have top academics. I prefer for the med school to be on campus, because then I'm more likely to get internships in the summertime. I'd like a coaching staff with wisdom or experience from the NFL, coaches who know how to coach from next level, and can help to get you there."
No. 3 on the football field for superstitious reasons ("I love it. Great things happen in threes,") Harris prides himself on his coverage skills and his tackling.
"I'm a shutdown corner," he said. "I lock down one side; I'm a quarterback's worst nightmare. I take away one side and make him play the other. So I pride myself in my pass coverage, and also coming up and attacking. I was a linebacker all way to my sophomore year, when I transferred from Woodward Academy. My coaches worked with me for countless hours, so I can come up."
As a freshman, Harris played alongside current Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson at Woodward (the only Atlantan with Stanford football ties Harris knows), but following that year, his scholarship was cut, a victim of the nationwide economic collapse. As such, he transferred from the private school (this year's tuition: $20,675) to Westlake, a public magnet high school some 20 minutes to the west.
Whether at Woodward or Westlake, Harris appears to have made the most of his academic opportunities.
"I'm in all AP and honors classes," he said. "Right now, I got a 4.0 both semesters last year and, overall, have a 3.9 unweighted. I've taken the ACT and took the SAT my freshman year [when he scored a 1,380, per Rivals], and I'm taking SAT classes and taking the SAT again in September. I'm hoping for an 1800, 1900."
While he does get good grades at good schools, Harris is no nerd. Make no mistake: this kid loves high school football.
"The experience has been great," he said of his high school career. "It really just flies by. I've been trying to get in as much work as I can at the college level to be ready. I want to be ready physically to be a college player.
"I'm trying to improve right now my size. I run track, varsity track, and am the starting point guard, so I'm always on the move and putting on weight is a challenge. Right now, I'm 160, and I'm focused on getting bigger and running with my size, not slowing down, but keeping that 4.3 speed. [Mid-4.4 speed, but we'll allow the slight exaggeration.]
"There's no place better than Georgia football. The only place I can compare it to is probably Texas. Georgia speaks for itself in putting out athletes. In fact, this weekend I'm representing Georgia at a 7-on-7 camp in Tuscaloosa, because we made it to nationals."
Two final bits of news on Harris. First, Harris recently picked up another SEC offer that hasn't been widely reported.
"My last offer was from Kentucky," he said. "I went up there for a one-day camp last week or the week before and I had a great camp. I think I ran a 4.45 on grass. They were in love with my hips, and they offered me that day."
Finally, Harris is planning on naming a leader and further shortening his list of five to "about three" schools soon. We will have that story for you, so stay tuned!
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