For Hawaii junior running back Paul Harris, a heavy dose of Future, one of today’s hottest rappers, is his choice to reverberate through his headphones as he laces up his cleats. The noise of any distractions are quickly subdued, the exact moment any competitive athlete uses to gather their final thoughts and emotions before battle. The only noise Harris will experience in that moment is the perennial buzz of over 100,000 people filling the seats of The Horseshoe.
Harris, a new weapon in Don Bailey’s revamped offense will see his football career come full circle for a brief moment as the Rainbow Warriors make the 4,500 mile trip to Columbus, Ohio this Saturday to face the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes. Returning home to Columbus allows Harris an opportunity to see many of his family and friends, but in his mind, a greater opportunity has presented itself - the chance to shock the nation by pulling off one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
“I’m definitely excited that my family and friends get to come see me play but I’m not trying to focus on that now,” Harris said. “It’s a big game and we need to focus on what we need to fix and try to come out with the W”.
Although most of the nation has written off the Rainbow Warriors, Harris isn’t ready to give in. The team’s mindset, Harris said, “Is to take it one play at a time, make less mistakes than the other team, and play them like a faceless opponent. They’re human, they make mistakes, we just need to come out and hit them in the mouth.”
Harris is no stranger to the fact that the people of Columbus - Ohio’s largest city - are passionate for football. Asked to reflect on his high school days, he said “it’s very intense.” Harris graduated from Marion-Franklin High School located on the south side of Columbus in 2011. During his senior year at Marion-Franklin, Harris rushed for 785 yards (11.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns and was named second-team all-state and first-team all-conference. He finished his two year varsity career with 1,468 career yards with 23 total touchdowns. Harris would eventually find himself in sunny California where he would go on to play two years at Ventura College.
A standout running back and returner at Ventura College in California, in his second year he was named an All-American as a kick returner by the JC Athletic Bureau and the California Community College Football Coaches Association. Harris was also selected Region III all-state first team and first-team all-conference as he rushed for 499 yards (8.5 avg.) and four touchdowns, with 12 receptions for 113 yards and another score.
After two years of success in Ventura, Harris’ only option to compete at the division one level was to come to the islands. Harris’ performances in junior college were evidence that he can compete at the highest collegiate level, but an issue with academic units that he needed to complete in his final Junior College semester pushed other schools away.
“A lot of schools really fled the scene when they found out I had to do 23 units in one semester, but Hawaii stayed in the light with me no matter what came up,” Harris said. “I got it done and they believed in me and kept their word.”
Arriving on campus at Manoa has been nothing less than a blessing for Harris. His positive attitude and selflessness that he channels every day is a core reason he has enjoyed early success in his first season as a Rainbow Warrior.
“Here we are a brotherhood, we always come together, the weather is beautiful, and there is no reason you should wake up mad and on the wrong side of the bed,” Harris said. “You just want to wake up and grind with the team.”
His only goal on the season is to do whatever it takes to help his team to a victory. Harris said, “My goal is to just do whatever I can for the team, I’m not selfish. I’ll play any position, anything to make the team better, make my team proud and my mom proud.”
In the opening victory at home versus Colorado, Harris led the team in rushing with 68 yards on 17 attempts along with a total of 72 yards on 4 kick returns. Kickoff is set for 9:30 am Hawaii Standard Time this Saturday.
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