Damien Harris Makes The Call

BEREA, Ky. – For the second year in a row, Kentucky and Alabama went head to head for the top senior football prospect in the Bluegrass State.

The Wildcats shocked many national observers last year when they beat Nick Saban & Co. for five-star defensive tackle Matthew Elam, but they were not able to duplicate the feat on this occasion with another All-American in their backyard.

Four-star Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, Scout's No. 6 running back in the Class of 2015, announced Friday during a ceremony at his school that he will attend Alabama, picking the Crimson Tide over UK and Ohio State.

"It was a hard decision because all three schools are great schools," Harris said, "but at the end of the day, obviously I had a feeling that Alabama was the best fit for me to development academically, physically as an athlete, so the feeling stuck with me for a while."

Asked about the key factors in his decision, Harris cited Alabama's coaching staff and the track record of developing players at his position.

"They just get backs to the league, and that's the ultimate goal after college, to try to make it to the next level," Harris said. "That was one of the biggest factors. It was hard to pass up a great opportunity like that."

It's not the first time one of the Bluegrass State's star running backs has elected to take his game to Tuscaloosa. Former Florence (Ky.) Boone County standout Shaun Alexander signed with the Tide in 1995 after winning Kentucky's "Mr. Football" Award. He rushed for 3,565 yards at Alabama and went on to a distinguished pro career with the Seattle Seahawks, including 2005 NFL MVP honors and three Pro Bowl appearances.

Another factor was Harris' relationship with several members of Alabama's top-rated 2015 recruiting class, including five-star quarterback Blake Barnett. The two have played together in numerous camp and all-star events, including last week's Under Armour All-American Game.

"It seems like every time we play together, we seem to win," Harris said. "We won at The Opening (elite summer combine in Oregon). We won the Under Armour game. Why not try to continue that tradition?"

He added that the recruiting process was a difficult one with each of his three finalists -- and at one point, Michigan -- leading for his commitment. After making an official visit to Alabama for the annual Iron Bowl weekend against Auburn, he was set on the Tide, but did not tell any of the coaches recruiting him until today.

Harris (5-10, 208, 4.48) rushed for 1,576 yards and 23 touchdowns on only 97 carries as a senior to earn Gatorade Player of the Year honors and the Paul Hornung Award for the top performer in Kentucky. His final season was cut short by a knee injury that cost him four of his last five games, but he recovered in time to turn in an impressive 110-yard effort with a 36-yard touchdown run in the Under Armour event.

That experience was thought to put the Crimson Tide over the top in a spirited recruiting battle against the Cats. Harris had originally committed to Michigan during his junior year, but re-opened his recruitment and eventually held scholarship offers from almost every major program in the nation.

He closed his distinguished prep career with the Eagles by rushing for more than 6,700 yards and scroing 113 touchdowns, the third-highest total in state history.

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