Madison Southern's Damien Harris has been a star since his freshman season. Through the last three years, he has accumulated scholarship offers from around the country. Once committed to Michigan, he recently named a top five of Ohio State, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida, with many believing the Buckeyes and Wildcats are ahead of the pack.
We had a chance to speak to his mother, Lynn Harris, who has been at his side through the entire process, about what he was like as a youngster and she was nice enough to share some photos with us.
What was Damien like as a child?
Damien has been always been a wonderful child. When he was younger he always found a way to entertain himself. He didn't start watching TV until he was around five or six years old, so in the mean time he would pull out all of my pots and pans with a potato masher and just bang away for hours and hours.
Or sometimes he would just crawl in under the cabinets and play quietly. He never really grasped the concept of 'terrible twos,' 'troublesome threes' or 'fearsome fours,' which was fine by me! He was always real quiet because he used his two middle fingers on his left hand as a pacifier (after I lost his).
I raised him in church and at two years old, he would walk up to the pulpit with the ministers and shake hands with them, no matter what. People would ask, 'do you make him do that?,' and I would be just as shocked as they were. When he got older and more talkative, he didn't really relate to other kids his age and found it more interesting to talk to adults and that's how he learned to speak so well. I told him if you're going to talk adults, then you need to learn how to speak to/with them respectfully. He always helped out in church functions whether it be with filling up water pitchers for the ministers, helping clean/prep for meals, passing the collection tray, reading scriptures, etc. He also served as corresponding secretary for New Liberty Baptist Sunday School Convention for a short period.
So, I feel like all of these things helped in molding him as far as learning how to speak well. He has always been competitive, no matter what it was he was determined to be the better at it than anyone (who was around). He wasn't demanding as a child and he's always been so patient and understanding to a fault, but that's a work in progress!
When did Damien start playing football and did you know right away he was going to be good?
I was determined that Damien would never play football. I know, never say never! My friends convinced me to let him just try it one year to see if he liked it. He started football at 7 years old. He played on the 49's coached by Mike Goggins and boy was it a struggle.
Everyday Damien was complaining about something....it's too hot, my helmet is too tight, so on and so forth. Mike got so aggravated at times with him that he would just run him the whole practice which made me mad cause I felt like he was being treated unfairly, so needless to say Coach Mike and I butted heads quite often!
The first half of the season Damien barely played, sat on the bench drinking up all the water. I remember we were playing in Estill Co. It was fall, snow flurries, freezing cold, wind cutting like a doctor's scalpel. We were playing the Browns and the game had been deadlocked at zero and we were in our 6th overtime. I looked over and saw him sitting on the bench and wondered why are we here, I could be at home warm, watching TV? I walked over to Damien and I said, 'You will not quit and you will not waste my time, sitting here while everyone else plays and not you! Do you like football? Do you want to play?' Yes! 'Well then get up off your ___ and prove it!'
And it was like a light switched on. Mike put him in and he goes in scores and we win the game 6-0. They went undefeated and made it to the championship game, which was to be played at Eastern Kentucky University. Damien woke up sick as a dog, nausea/vomiting, couldn't eat, I couldn't keep him awake and had a fever of 104. It was a rematch with the Browns and here he was unable to play. He woke up about an hour before the game, said, 'Ok mommy, I'm ready,' got dressed, nibbled on some saltine crackers and went to EKU and played his heart out. His most memorable play was he had a 104 yard touchdown run. They won the championship that year, and he won the next two of three Super Bowls after that.
I always thought Damien was 'okay' as a football player, but not in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn in to this. All through Pop Warner and middle school, people would tell me, 'he is SPECIAL!' And I just thought well, I don't know about all that, we'll just take it one day at a time.
Looking at these pictures and thinking about the young man he has become and how highly recruited he is, what goes through your mind?
Absolute disbelief! First off, I can't believe how fast time has gone by. Even though, I physically see a 17 year old young man in front of me, at the same time I still see my 4 year old with a raspy deep voice, chewing on those two fingers. As he grew up and he got better, my prayer for him got stronger. Let's face it, Central Kentucky is not a place that colleges go to recruit kids. May 18th, 2012, I was pulling into a parking space in Louisville, Kentucky at U-of-L, and I was getting ready to watch him participate in his first high school state track meet when Coach Clark called me and said, 'Hey Lynn, How's it going?' I said, 'great, how are you?' He said, 'Are you sitting down right now cause I have something to tell you?' I immediately thought, 'what in the world has Damien done?'
I told him, just give me enough time to put my car in park so I don't hit anything depending on what you're getting ready to tell me. He says, 'Wake Forest University has just offered your son a full scholarship to play football.' I couldn't believe it. I fell silent. I screamed, I cried, I Praised the Lord! I'm just so thankful that all of these colleges have watched his film, taken the time to talk to/get to know him, walk through the halls of his school, spend time with his teachers/administrators/coaches and think enough of him, that they want him to represent their school. To say it's a BLESSING is an understatement! To GOD BE THE GLORY!
What are your hopes for him as he goes through this recruiting process and his senior year?
My prayer is that Damien has a healthy season, continues to stay humble/grounded and not take any of this amazing experience for granted above anything else. With it being his final high school season, I hope that he enjoys every minute, soaks it all up and has the best time of his life. He has better days coming, but right now these are the best days of his life.
Damien's great grandmother (Esther) loved going to everyone of his footballs games. She bragged on him like no other and was his biggest cheerleader. After she passed in 2005, my mother has told him on every game day, whether it be basketball, football or track, 'Damien, you have an angel on your shoulder, make sure today that you take her for a good ride. As long as you take off, she'll spread her wings and do the rest.'