Ex-Vol profiled in espn.com article

He was one of the biggest players in Tennessee's 2002 football signing class. He also proved to be one of the biggest disappointments. After two seasons as an overweight underachiever, he flunked out of school.

Now, LaRon Harris has resurfaced. After a year at a tiny NAIA school called Northwest Oklahoma State, the massive Memphian is hoping some pro team will call his name during the NFL Draft, scheduled April 28-29 in New York.

Based on an in-depth profile entitled "Just trying to make a name for himself" – written by Elizabeth Merrill and posted at espn.com – Harris had serious anger issues during his days on The Hill.

It seems he grew up without a father in the tough Hyde Park section of Memphis. For amusement, he and his friends would stack abandoned mattresses and jump on them. Harris, though big for his age, learned to do back flips.

Sixteen years later, at age 22, he still can do back flips ... even though he carries 350 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. He did one at a recent workout in Connecticut, wowing the pro scouts in attendance. He also did 33 bench-press repetitions and clocked 1.74 seconds in the 10-yard shuttle. That kind of athleticism could get him drafted later this month, in spite of a checkered past and a nondescript college career.

"He has amazing ability," agent Joe Linta told Merrill. "But he's an unrefined talent. If this kid had stayed at Tennessee, we would probably be talking about him as a first-day lock."

Vol coaches didn't realize it but Harris was a troubled teen when he arrived at The Hill. When he tried to apply for a driver's license a few years earlier, he found the name on his birth certificate was LaRon Moore, not LaRon Harris. Assuming this was the work of the father who abandoned him, he developed quite a chip on his shoulder. When his playing time at UT didn't suit him, Harris began cutting classes and weight workouts.

"I was just being rebellious," Harris told Merrill. "Just being dumb. I was looking for a reason why I wasn't playing a whole lot, and nobody could explain that to me. I decided I wasn't going to do things their way anymore."

After flunking out of Tennessee, Harris bounced around awhile, then got a second chance at Northwest Oklahoma State. He matured a bit during his time there, resolved some of the anger toward his absentee father, and worked to resurrect his football career.

Earl Lester, who was Harris' defensive line coach in high school, sees a difference in his former pupil.

"When he was at Tennessee, he kept trying to blame someone else for what he was going through," Lester told Merrill. "I'd tell him, 'LaRon, you're your own person. You make your own decisions. No one told you not to go to class, not to go to the weight room.'

"Now he saw every mistake he made in the past. He's doing everything he can now not to go back to where he was."

Perhaps, at long last, LaRon Harris is ready to tap into his mind-boggling potential. If so, some NFL owner could be doing the back flips next fall.


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