Fast & Furious: Willie Harriott

Penn State’s focus in the recruiting battles this year is adding speed to the program. While the experts are raving about the Nittany Lions securing commitments from Justin King, Derrick Williams and Knowledge Timmons, Willie Harriott has been somewhat overlooked.

But the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder from Hyde Leadership High in Hamden, Conn., can give any of them a run for their money. He ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at Florida State’s summer camp last year.

“He’s an explosive athlete,” Hyde coach John Acquavita said. “He has an extra gear. Without seeing him, it’s tough to explain.”

Acquavita said Harriott was a threat to score every time he touched the ball for the Howling Wolves. He caught 33 passes for 778 yards as a senior, which factors out to better than 23 yards per grab. And most of the catches came on dumps near the line of scrimmage, which Harriott would turn into big-gainers.

“I think Penn State has plans to put him somewhere in the backfield,” Acquavita said. “Somewhere he can use his explosiveness to make plays. Probably as a slot player.”

Harriott brings more than pure athletic ability to the table. Hyde is a “magnet” school, a public institution “designed to attract students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds for the purpose of reducing, preventing or eliminating racial isolation and/or provide an academic or social focus on a particular theme,” according to the school’s web site. Students must apply to a lottery to be chosen for the magnet school.

Hyde’s theme, according to Acquavita, is “character first.”

The coach said Harriott fits the mold perfectly, off the field and on. And, after leading Hyde to a 40-5 mark during his career — including a 12-0 run as a senior — the young athlete knows a thing or two about winning.

“He’s never lost at any level, from Pop Warner through high school,” Acquavita said. “I think that’s the same with a lot of the players they have coming into the program. No matter where he plays, he’ll help them win.

“He’s gonna come in and expect to win,” the coach added. “I think that’s contagious.”

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