Harris Excited About First Start

Freshman offensive tackle Ryan Harris received his first start of his career last week against Pittsburgh. It's rare that any freshman offensive lineman would start for any team but Harris has always been a rare and exceptional young man. We talked to Harris after Tuesday's practice to find out what his first starting experience was like.

Ryan Harris said he didn't know for sure if he was going to start last week until Friday before the game. "The Friday before the game was when it was solid and a sure thing," said Harris. "I had been practicing with the ones the entire week and they'd been telling me they were going to switch some things up."

Harris said once he knew, he had to start the mental preparation for the game. "I just knew I had to stay focused and that I couldn't get too excited or couldn't psyche myself out. I just had to study the playbook, look at our scouting sheets and tips and just do what the coaches have been teaching me to do."

The Minnesota native said he wasn't happy with his performance on Saturday and knows he needs to improve. "I feel like I played OK--nowhere near where I'm happy with. I feel I can do a lot better and I will get a lot better. It was my first game, I did OK, but definitely, definitely room for improvement and that will happen."

Playing the game is a lot different than practicing according to Harris. He said the game moves much quicker when on the field. "The biggest adjustment was things happen a lot faster but take a lot longer. It sounds kind of backwards. Things are a lot faster, but it takes longer to get reads and make blocks."

The Irish offense moved the ball very well on the ground in his first start. Harris said it was a team effort and their success was not because of his play. "That was not me at all. The offensive line, as a group, we've got to be together, and that night, we were together. We executed the game plan together. Together, we did what we've known we've been able to do."

Harris said he received a lot of help from the older players in getting him prepared for his first career start for the Irish. "The older players helped me out a lot over the bye week with tips. Dan Stevenson and Jim Molinaro really helped me out in terms of on the field, game-type stuff prior to the game. They were very helpful and made a huge impact in helping me come along."

His next start will be against one of the best defensive lines in the country—USC. Harris says he can't be intimidated by USC and needs to just play the way his coaches have been teaching him. "I can't psyche myself out. I'm going to study my playbook and study the technique my coaches have been teaching me. I'm going to the best of my abilities and hopefully that will be good enough for the team."

Ryan says his family and friends have been wonderful to him all year and he's really appreciated their support. "I have a good support staff at home. A good support circle with friends and families and former players that I've played with that are real happy for me. It just great that I have such a good support group behind me."

Irish fans know more about Harris than probably any freshman because of his appear on MTV's True Life Series. Harris told Irish Eyes how that all came about. "My high school coach came down and said ‘you got a call from somebody from MTV. I looked at my friend and went ‘that'd be cool if was like "True Life" or something.' I get up there and the guy says ‘this is Pat Lowe from MTV and I'm the producer of a show called "True Life" so I dropped the phone."

Harris was asked what his next television appearance will be. "Hopefully NFL Prime Time," said Harris laughingly. "That's all extra benefits with playing well and that's my main concern."

Harris said he trained hard over the summer and his hard work has allowed him to get on the field this year. "I didn't want to come into camp 300 pounds and can't run. I'm fine with being 287, 290 and being able run still and move."

"I've been working with a trainer," Harris continued. "Ted Johnson, my trainer, has really emphasized, we knew I was never going to be the biggest. I'm never going to be the biggest offensive lineman in the country so I'm going to have to work on my technique and speed so I can play better. That's been my main focus."

Coach Tyrone Willingham and Notre Dame made a positive impression on Harris when he visited his senior year. Harris explained why he chose Notre Dame. "It's Notre Dame. There's so many things, so many aspects. The type of school that it is, the emphasis that this program actually places on academics, I can see that from recruiting. This is prime-time football. Everybody either loves Notre Dame or hates it because other people love it. It's just the place to be. It's the pinnacle of college football. I like the pressure of playing here and I like the atmosphere here."

The Irish and Harris will now face their rival, USC. Harris says the offense can't wait to get back on the field. "We're all just antsy because we just want to go out and perform. We know we can do better than we did last week, and we know SC is a great team. We just want to go out there, put man on man, and match it up, and go."

We've known "Mr. President" all through his recruitment last year. We've been saying all along that Harris is not only a special football player, but a special kid. Harris will quickly become a fan-favorite among Irish fans because of who he is. If he keeps playing like he did on Saturday, he might become a legend among Irish fans.

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