“My little sister, she’s getting into sports now,” Harris explained. “So I had to show her that if you get a little injury you can’t let it hold you down!”
‘Little injury’? Right. Like maybe the Mississippi is a minor stream. Or Nick James drives a low-key truck. Only a Bulldog who has endured three, count ‘em, three serious knee surgeries is going to call that latest setback ‘little’.
Then again, by now Harris can take just about any sort of setback in stride. Just the fact he’s still striding a football field is a victory in itself. That the fourth-year junior is right back in the middle linebacker rotation says so much more about Harris’ resilience.
And, sense of humor? He certainly sees the lighter side of so much time with a knife to a knee. In fact…
“I can almost fix one myself!” he joked. “I mean, I haven’t been awake in surgery, but I could probably fix it. I’ve seen the surgery, I know how it works.”
The real work has been all Harris. He’s come back from ACL tears in the right (high school) and left (2014, 2015) knees. And come back each time, if not as strong as before at least close enough. Take his most recent rehab, after going down last October 17 in the Louisiana Tech game.
“Right after I got cleared to run I ran a 4.5. Somewhere around there.” This reflects the sheer athletic ability that so enthralled then-linebacker coach Geoff Collins during Harris’ 2013 work on scout defense. And, which has left ensuring position coaches and coordinators hoping somehow, some way the deserving Dog can put in an uninterrupted season. He’s played in 13 games over two varsity years.
Peter Sirmon likes Harris well enough to shift him to middle linebacker this preseason. Maybe some of it had to do with moving Gerri Green to viper. Or maybe Harris has that sort of potential to make plays.
“I guess to move people around to certain positions,” Harris said. “I know I’m stronger, faster, maybe that’s what they saw in me.” For his part he likes being able to see the whole field from middle, having practiced and played before at both sam and will.
“I do like the responsibility. I wouldn’t mind playing on the outside or with my hand on the ground. It really doesn’t matter.” Because, he said, linebacking is linebacking.
“Just get to the ball and get him on the ground.”
Like the rest of the linebackers, all positions, Harris has bought into Sirmon’s style. Of course he’s had to be adaptable in coaching anyway, going from Collins to Manny Diaz to now Sirmon. He has taken something from each.
“I have. A little bit of technique, a little bit of go-get-it here and there. They all come at you strong and want the best for you, so it’s really how you take it.” Take it from the hot and emotional Collins; the icy and collected Diaz; and now “Coach Sirmon is a little bit of both.”
But again, Harris doesn’t need a position coach or coordinator to keep him going. Winning his way back on the field, time after time after time, shows his internal motivation.
“I mean, it’s all about will. I’ve got a tremendous support system. My Mom, my whole family encouraged me to keep going, keep going.” And most of all, there’s Keniya, the 13-year-old sister who “No doubt!” is harder on him than even the MSU coaches.
“She’s 13, now she’s getting into high school sports more. I can’t show no weakness.”
Just the opposite. Harris intends to stay strong for an entire Mississippi State season this time. And, to never go under a knife again.
“Of course anybody that’s been through injuries will tell you that. Just to make it through a whole season, make it through this game and keep going.”