It has been a long road back to competitive action for Damien Harris, but his surgically repaired elbow was deemed ready to go for The Opening. He spent the early part of his first day just appreciating the fact that he’d made it back.
“It feels unbelievable, especially being out here with the greatest players in the country,” said Harris. “This is something that not a lot of people get to experience. I’m extremely blessed and humbled by the experience. It is just always good to be on the field.”
When the time came for Harris to put his skills to the test he acquitted himself extremely well, but he definitely noticed a hint of rustiness.
“I ran a 4.4, I had a 4.00 shuttle, 38 (inch) vert, and a 35 (foot) power ball toss,” he reported. “It’s hard because I missed so much time. I didn’t get a lot of time to train for this (from when) I had elbow surgery. I would have liked for my forty time to be faster, but you know, that’s not important. The most important part is just having the opportunity to be out here with these guys, these coaches that put so much time into making this the best possible event for us. They call it football heaven for a reason. I’m not too worried about numbers and stuff like that. I’m just enjoying my time out here in Oregon.”
It’s also a small respite from the recruiting rat-race that has picked up a great deal of steam in recent weeks. Good friends Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard committed to Ohio State last week, and the trio’s previously stated desire to attend school together prompted speculation that Harris would soon follow suit. That’s not yet the case, however, as Harris insists he isn’t even ready to shave his list of contenders yet.
Said Harris, “I’m going to wait until after summer, right before season starts and narrow it down to about five schools.”
In the meantime he will continue to thoroughly evaluate all of his suitors in an effort to determine the best fit. That said, it’s very clear that The Buckeyes’ recent pledges made the fit in Columbus look all the more ideal.
“I’d be lying if I said (the Hilliard and Cornell commitments) didn’t impact me a lot,” Harris stated. “Those are just two of my good friends that I’ve become friends with in this whole recruiting process. We all talked about playing together like you said, and now that they’ve committed it gives me more to think about… if I do still want to play with them, or if they (just) went to the school that I like. I just have to take all these things into my thought process and making my decision.”
One of the schools standing in the way of the Scarlet & Gray momentum is a program once considered dark horse in Harris’ recruitment... in-state upstart, Kentucky.
“I wouldn’t even say they were a dark horse,” he said. “Honestly, they’re one of my top schools. I just feel like that could potentially be the best for me, not necessarily football aspects of life, just (for) anything. The game of football ends at some point and like you said, it is right there in my home state, basically in my hometown. I’m basically 20 minutes away. It’s hard to not look at them because they’re right there. They’re in the process of a rebuild and everybody around you is (saying), ‘go to UK, go to Kentucky, be a part of the turnaround, the change.’ I’ve got a lot of good friends on the team like Drew Barker, Ryan Timmons. I talk to them about the whole process. There are a lot of things that go into it, but I’m just keeping them up there.”
And then there is one-time clear-cut favorite Michigan. A great deal has happened in Ann Arbor since he rescinded his commitment last winter. One of those things was the addition of USC transfer Ty Isaac. Many have speculated that addition of the former five-star All-American would hurt the Wolverines’ chances. Harris has heard such chatter, but says it has no merit.
“Everybody thinks it (impacted me), but I’m not one of those running backs that is scared to compete for playing time,” he said. It doesn’t bother me. It really didn’t make a difference to me. I’ve talked to Coach Nussmeier and I’ve talked to Coach Hoke and I’m seeing where things go with them. I plan on visiting for the BBQ and I guess I’ll see how that goes. I said that I wanted to see if I get that spark that I had initially with the school. We’ll just have to see if it comes back.”
Whether it does or not will likely determine if Michigan makes his official visit list.
“Once I narrow it down to my five schools, I’ll take officials to those five,” Harris said.
He may wind up having a few official in common with new friend Mike Weber. The coveted runners have struck up a fast rapport while in Oregon.
“Now that we’re and obviously were both heavily recruited running backs… we just want to get away from the whole recruiting process, kind of chill, relax, talking and obviously we do talk about football now and then, said Harris. “I asked him today what his top schools were and he asked me what mine are. We kind of compared/contrasted, just kind of see where things were between the two of us.”
An obvious question is could these two talented youngsters play together?
“We might,” replied Harris. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
To view the video interview with Harris, press play below.