Marcus Harris played in three football games as a freshman.
The North Hardin junior verbally committed Thursday to continue his academic and athletic careers at Kent State University.
“It’s crazy,” Harris said. “Coach (Brent) Thompson told me since my freshman year that I was gonna play Division I football because I’ve got what it takes. I saw that playing my sophomore year after I put in the work over the summer — I would go run routes after weightlifting — that hard work was gonna get me to that level. I’m still working hard, even if it’s the smallest thing on my game.
“This is all a blessing.”
But, putting in that work did not come alone.
“I never realized how important the weight room was until after my freshman year, going into my sophomore year,” Harris said. “I knew I was probably going to play, but La’Vell (Wright) told me to stay in the weight room and work.”
The North Hardin running back, who recently committed to the University of Kentucky, wasn’t the only one in Harris’ ear.
“Octavious (Oxendine, who chose UK in December) was a big factor,” Harris said. “I stayed with him all that summer and the summer going into my junior year. We worked out each and every day. I would always complain to him, ‘Man, I’m not gonna get any offers.’ He told me to be patient and trust the process. He definitely helped out. Coach T, being the head coach, has always been great about this.
“My dad — he went through the recruiting process — told me the process is slow and might take a while, but it’s gonna get there. My mom has helped me a lot. Everyone around me has helped during this process.”
One game gave Harris the confidence he needed. In a 40-16 loss to eventual Class 6-A state champion Male to close the 2018 season at 9-3, Harris caught five passes for 88 yards. Those numbers were 21.7 percent of his receptions and 26.7 percent of his yards for the season.
“I’m not gonna lie, that last game against Male told me I could play this game, that I could play varsity and I could dominate,” he said. “You have to have that mentality. Anyone in front of me is not gonna guard me, that’s what I think when someone lines up across from me.”
The Golden Flashes are coming off a 7-6 season. They won their last four games, including a 51-41 triumph over Utah State in the Frisco Bowl.
“Their coaching staff is great,” said Harris, who remarked that it came down to Kent State and Cincinnati. “They’ve got that family vibe that I looked for. They go out of their way to recruit you. I got on a Zoom call with Coach (Will) Windham and my parents and he brought on a professor from the college. I want to major in business, so he got a professor on the phone to run down how they do business there in the business school.
“When a coach gets a professor on the phone to talk about education, you know they are doing everything and that shows a lot. (Head) Coach (Sean) Lewis is a great guy and a great coach. He likes to throw the ball.”
Harris admitted the pandemic played a part in his early decision.
“This whole thing had an impact,” he said. “I talked to Coach T that morning and asked him if he thought it was a bad idea if I committed. He said, ‘If you know that’s where you want to go, there’s nothing wrong with a verbal commitment. I wanted to lock in my spot with Kent State.
“It’s about 5½ hours away, which is not too bad. Coach told me they have a tough schedule and won’t back down from anybody, no matter who they are. I like that mentality.”
The Golden Flashes open the 2020 season at Penn State Sept. 5, visit Kentucky Sept. 19 and Alabama Sept. 26.
Harris caught 37 passes for 621 yards and seven touchdowns as the Trojans went 13-1 in 2019, losing in the Class 6-A state semifinals to eventual state champ Trinity.
“We’re working and grinding while away from football right now,” he said. “We’re working with our teammates and making sure the younger guys are working. We’ll be working all summer. As soon as they let us back in, Coach T wants us to be ready to hit the ground running and not slow down until we get that ring.”
North Hardin had 207 receptions last season with 199 going to five players — Josh Moore (43-903-10), Camron Smith (39-763-6), Harris (37-621-7), Wright (34-553-3) and Ramaj Adams (46-487-4).
“We have a great coach in Trevor (Deneen) and there’s no selfishness with the receivers, whoever gets the ball, we know they’re gonna work,” Harris said. “We’re gonna do us no matter what. I have that faith in our other three receivers and La’Vell and for the quarterback to make the throw. There’s a lot of selflessness on this team.
“I feel that everyone is going to be focused on La’Vell next year to shut him down since he’s a UK commit that we might throw it a little more because the focus will be on him.”