Contributing Staff Writer Faulkner gives us a look at Safety Jeremy Harrison…
Wearing a black T-shirt and gray sweat pants, Jeremy Harrison looks like any other student at Jacksonville State. The only difference is the black rubber bracelet on his wrist with two words in bold, white letters: STAY FOCUSED. The bracelet, not noticed by random passersby, is worn by all members of the football team as a reminder of last season’s early exit from the playoffs.
“When I saw my first football game, I knew I wanted to play,” Jeremy said. This revelation came after he had watched a game which pitted the Tennessee Volunteers against the Duke Blue Devils. He now plays defensive back for the Gamecocks and at 6 foot 1 inch and 191 pounds, he looks the part.
Fast forward to the beginning of his high school career. During his freshman season, his coaches experimented with where to play him because of his versatility. They played him at linebacker, wide receiver and finally settled on cornerback. A cornerback is like a stick in bicycle spokes. If he performs his duties correctly, swatting passes out of the air and knocking the ball out of opposing players’ hands, he will stop the offense in its tracks. He not only became great at his position, he became the greatest fear of any quarterback, a lock-down corner. During his sophomore and junior seasons, every time Harrison stepped on the field opposing coaches told quarterbacks to throw away from him.
During his senior season, Jeremy’s coaches thought his talents could be better utilized at safety so they started the transition from corner to safety. The safety is the last line of defense between the opposing team and the end zone. Unfortunately, disaster struck when a pulled groin cut short his senior season in the third game. He was able to return to play the final two games of that season, however. He recorded two interceptions in the first of those games and several tackles in the latter.
He had garnered some interest from Division I-A schools by this time, especially from Texas Christian University. Scouts from TCU had been to see him play on several occasions. All that had to be done was for him to express his intent to join the team and Jeremy would be a Horned Toad. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication about his intent to join the team, and the coaching staff quickly lost interest.
Jeremy, with the help of his trainer, created a highlight tape to send out to other schools. Somehow, his tape ended up on the desk of Toby Norwood, defensive backs coach for JSU. Norwood must have seen something he liked on the tape because he contacted Harrison’s trainer to set up a meeting. Coincidentally, Jeremy’s mother attended JSU, and that played a significant role in his decision-making process.
Upon his arrival at JSU, Jeremy took a redshirt to get a better grasp on the defensive scheme and make the transition from high school to college. Redshirt is a term used to describe a student who sits out for a year, whether due to injury or because a team has too many players at a certain position and does not lose a year of eligibility. “It got me prepared for college life,” he said. “It got me thinking about what I want to do with my life.”
He is now looking to earn a spot on the Gamecocks’ roster this summer. “I plan on working my butt off so I can,” he said. He realizes he may not break the starting rotation this year but is willing to play on special teams and earn his minutes.
His work ethic and the timely arrival of a new defensive coordinator will give Jeremy a fighting chance to earn a spot in the rotation. Everyone will be learning new plays and schemes, but only those who have playing experience will have an advantage.
What about the National Football League? Though he is optimistic, he is also level-headed. He realizes that only a fraction of the players who fight for a spot on an NFL roster make it and is working to receive an undergraduate degree in communications. “If it happens, I would love to play at the next level,” Harrison said.
What else is there to know about Jeremy Harrison? In the eighth and ninth grade he played trumpet for his school’s band. During his high school career he also competed in track and field and almost set a state record in the 4 by 1 finishing just a second over. In his spare time on campus he likes going down to Stevenson, the student’s recreational facility and playing basketball with his friends.
STAY FOCUSED. He has to in order to maintain the minimum grade point average of student athletes, learn the playbook, study, work out and spend time with friends. In fact, it will be hard to find someone more focused than Jeremy Harrison.