Jawuan Harris Finds Balance in Big Sophomore Year

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- As a two-sport athlete at Rutgers, Jay Harris had no time rest between football and baseball in the winter. He worked heavily with football strength coach Kenny Parker and met new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill in a brief offseason before Harris shifted focus to Bainton Field.

No days off may be a basic slogan to most student-athletes, but it quickly defined life for Jawuan Harris when he decided to balance football with baseball at Rutgers.

“It’s kind of hard, but I get through it,” Harris said. “Football is always in the mornings, I have class in the morning and then from then on, it’s baseball and classes.”

After Harris redshirted for football in the fall of 2015, he became an immediate impact player for the Scarlet Knights on the baseball diamond in the spring with 37 steals and a 20-game on-base streak as a starting outfielder.

That translated over to the gridiron for football, where he was the top receiver for Rutgers with 39 catches for 481 yards.

“I definitely feel that playing football definitely helps on the baseball field,” Harris said. “Maybe vice versa, you can slow the game down a little more in football to be able to read defenders or know what’s going to happen as far as reading the defense.”


Baseball coach Joe Litterio dissected the difference from Harris as a freshman to now.

“With an athlete, you’ve got to get comfortable before your talents start to show and that whole year of freshman year is tough,” Litterio said. “Everything moves a lot quicker, there’s a lot more rules, you’re doing it year round. With him, he was able to do both sports, but I think just getting comfortable with everything — just with school, the schedule and everything else — that helps you feel comfortable in knowing the next year coming in what’s expected of you and then the athlete takes over.

“I think that for him helped him out, especially with football, being able to get on the field this year, being healthy for him and really playing a big part, a big role in the team, which he was for us his freshman year. So, I expect the same this year, even better.”

Harris met with former Rutgers two-sport athlete and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Patrick Kivlehan when the Fred Hill Training Complex had its Jan. 31 grand opening.


“(Kivlehan) was here taking some live at bats and I was talking to him behind home plate,” Harris said. “We were just talking. He was asking me if some of the strength coaches were still there, how does it work, so I was talking to him a little bit.

“I definitely see the similarities, but not any pointers from him. We were just talking about the same thing, we joked about the same things.”

Kivlehan came away impressed with Harris when he met with the media that day.


“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Kivlehan said of Harris. “Anyone who can do two sports here is … he’s actually doing two sports here. I just transitioned. He’s actually doing both. More credit to him.”

Before the switch back to baseball gets underway as Rutgers prepares for its Feb. 17 season-opening series at Miami, Harris hit the weights with the football team and strength coach Kenny Parker.

Harris also met in-depth with new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill.

“I think he’s a good dude,” Harris said. “He’s funny, brings a lot of energy. He’s an older guy, but he brings a lot of energy. He knows what he’s talking about, so I’m excited.”

Harris was optimistic about the talent Rutgers has in the wide receivers room between the return of Janarion Grant and the additions in the 2017 recruiting class.

“I feel like we’re going to have a lot of offensive weapons now,” Harris said. “Janarion’s coming back, we got Ahmir (Mitchell), his brother (Damon) Duwop (Mitchell). So, I feel like we got a lot of talent to surround the quarterback. So, hopefully we should be really good on offense.”

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