Nobody picks on Harmon now. They love him.
Colleges also love A.J. Harmon. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Jefferson County High (Louisville, Ga.) lineman will be one of the most talented players in the 2008 recruiting class. He already has offers from Florida, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. Notre Dame assistant coach John Latina has been by the school to get a look at the future blue-chipper.
"When I was coming up, people were always saying you aren't going to do this, you aren't going to do that," Harmon said with a laugh. "You're sorry, you're sorry, you're sorry. You are going to be big, fat and sorry."
They were right about big, and sorry for anyone that gets in his way.
Harmon has been dominant at nose guard and offensive tackle. With Notre Dame, a school he is very interested in, possibly switching to a 3-4 defense, how do these numbers sound? Harmon caused 16 fumbles, five in one game, while eating up two or three blockers depending on the play. He also had 47 tackles, but really opened things up for the linebackers to run around and make plays.
An 81-inch wing span, Harmon hasn't allowed too many sacks.
"He plays with a lot of attitude, and that's what the colleges like," Jefferson County head coach Jerry Arnold said. "He is not scared of anybody.
"He wants to hurt you, when he steps on the field, that's what he wants to do, whether it's a tackle or a pancake. Off the field, he is a big ole great kid."
That poor punching bag. The first thing to feel Harmon's wrath. Oh yeah, and he didn't use it for boxing. Kids have imaginative minds, and Harmon found a way to play football with his punching bag.
"I didn't have any friends, I was big and fat," Harmon said. "I would bull rush it, then I would pick it up, sprint five yards and sprint back and try and bust through it."
That punching bag gave all it had for three years. At 15-years old, Harmon finally busted it open.
That's about the time Harmon started showing out on the football field. Coaches pushed him into the weight room and motivated him a different way. They fueled Harmon's fire by telling him he would never be as good as 6-foot-3, 325-pound Fernando Velasco, a Jefferson County alum that has gone on to start on Georgia's offensive line.
"That really drove me to work hard," Harmon stated.
Harmon put in the time, and hasn't really come off the field ever since. The letters started rolling in, coaches have come by the school. Big-time head coaches will be by.
"(Florida head coach) Urban Meyer is supposed to come this week," Arnold said. "(Clemson head coach) Tommy Bowden is coming a day this week or next week. (Georgia head coach) Mark Richt is coming to our banquet, and we know the reason why."
Harmon has been going to the area Nike Combine since his freshman year. He has been to camps at Clemson, Auburn and Georgia. He can bench press 310 pounds, squat 495 pounds and run a 5.3 40-yard dash.
He has been on unofficial visits for games to Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
Harmon admitted to being a strong Clemson lean early in the recruiting process, but now realizes much more will be go into his college decision. The field is open and Notre Dame is certainly in the mix.
"They are one of the best schools," Harmon stated. "You don't hear about the other independents, Navy and Temple always playing in a big bowl game. Notre Dame can pick anyone on their schedule and I like that. They picked ranked schools, and they realize talent and competition. I like that. Some schools if they could, they would pick easy teams so they could be ranked."
Harmon really appreciates the schools from far away showing interest in him.
"If they are coming from far away to come see me, I take that to heart," he said. "Any school coming that far, I take that to heart. I like that, they are taking time out of their schedule to show me they want me. I feel real good about that."
Harmon has over a 2.5 GPA and realizes the education opportunity he has by playing college football. But he is focused on going to the NFL. The opportunity for his family would be tremendous.
Harmon's father works at the local chalk factory. They are always changing his shifts on him. His mother work's at the prison as a sergeant. They work hard, and they work long hours.
Seeing his parents working hard to support him, is additional fuel for Harmon to make it big and repay them grand.
"I just want to go somewhere I know for a fact that I can go on and play professional, so I can tell my mom and dad to quit their jobs, Harmon explained. "Just tell them to retire, I'm taking care of you guys now."
When Harmon wasn't busy eating, or running through his punching bag, he found time to settle in front of the television and watch one of his favorite flicks, Rudy. That movie peaked his interest about Notre Dame, and he watched them on television. He was surprised when he got that first letter from South Bend.
I watch Notre Dame and I respect their school ever since I saw Rudy," Harmon said. "I watched that when I was little. He just wanted to play that one game, and he just wanted to show everybody that he could do it. That he belonged. That's who I compared myself to when I was little.
"That Notre Dame, you can't just knock them off because they are called the Fighting Irish."