Head coach Mark Pemberton and his staff have enjoyed quite a run at Knoxville Catholic, as the Fighting Irish have gone 34-3 over the past three seasons. Quality coaching and game planning is vital to a program's success, but it always helps to have good athletes. One of the best players coach Pemberton has is athlete Harrison Smith.
"He's a wing back for us," coach Pemberton said of Smith. "He's not our feature guy, because we try to spread it around a lot, but he's our ‘go-to' guy. He had over 1,300 yards rushing on 155 attempts and 17 rushing touchdowns. He had 446 yards catching and 6 touchdowns. He had five interceptions defensively for two touchdowns. He does it all for us.
"His longest run was 70 yards. His longest catch was 68. He returned an interception 84 yards. He was our big play guy. He knows how to win and he's helped us win football games. He's a real quiet kid that doesn't say a whole lot, but he's intelligent. There will be absolutely no problem with him qualifying. He sounds too good to be true, but he's a heck of a young man."
"He's the type that makes a big play when it's down to the wire," coach Pemberton explained. "We beat a team that was the two-time defending state champion because he made a big catch in the corner of the end zone. He was stretched out diving to beat them. He's the kid that makes the play when you need it."
"He's absolutely a Division I guy," Pemberton said of Smith's chances of competing at the college level. "He's a 4.5 guy. He could play receiver or a back in the shotgun stuff that they run now. He's 6-3, 205 pounds now and he's going to be about 215 at the start of next season. We try to get the ball to him in a bunch of different ways.
"He's a heck of a running back. He's definitely a power back, but he can run away from people. He can make you miss. He's got good hips and he has a tremendous stiff arm. I should have kept stiff-arm stats. It's unbelievable the number of people he's made miss with the stiff arm."
"He's a heck of a defensive player too," coach Pemberton added. "He could be a big safety. He could be a linebacker defensively in college. He's very physical. I could see him playing a ‘Will' linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or playing the strong safety in the 4-2-5 look. He's just the type of kid you could plug in anywhere. Because he's so fast, big and physical I think he'll fit in a lot of places."
A high school player can excel on physical ability alone, but the college game is much different. Dedication and desire often separates the good prospects from the elite prospects.
"He's a workaholic in the weight room," coach Pemberton said of Harrison's work ethic "In between his freshman and sophomore years he worked his tail off and turned himself into a player for us. It was amazing the difference in his size and strength going into that sophomore season. He's worked himself into this position. He started being really physical with people and started striking people. His nickname is ‘bone crusher'. That sounds silly, but that's what the kids call him. He made even more strides between his sophomore and junior year."
A player of Smith's ability doesn't stay a secret very long, especially in the talent-rich state of Tennessee. Recruiters have already been in contact with him and he's already looking at his college options.
"I went to Georgia Tech, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and then I went to the Notre Dame-Tennessee game," Smith said of his early unofficial visits. "I went up for Notre Dame. I talked to coach Weis and their offensive coordinator. He seemed really smart and really organized. That was the most organized visit that I went on. He seemed like he had everything together.
"I went to the South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Auburn camps last year. I'll probably go to the Nike camp this year and some one-day camps."
Being such a versatile athlete, Smith will have several options when he considers playing in college.
"Not really," Smith replied when asked if he had a preference of which position he played at the next level. "I've always played running back as well as safety or corner. I'd rather play safety over linebacker on the defensive side."
Coach Pemberton is obviously very pleased with Smith as a player and an individual. Smith's athletic ability has only been a one ingredient to his success.
"I had high expectations, as I think you do every year." Smith answered when asked if he expected the success that he has enjoyed. "I just tried to play up to my goals.
Note: Smith has a 3.8 self-reported g.p.a.