Kevin Harris often looked like a man playing among boys during his high school football days at Bradwell Institute.
After moving on to play at South Carolina, Harris lived up to the potential he first showed in Hinesville.
As a sophomore, the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder became the first Gamecock to lead the SEC in rushing as he amassed 1,138 yards in just 10 game to earn All-SEC first-team honors.
Injuries slowed Harris down last fall, in his junior season, but Harris finished strong — rushing for 182 yards in his final game — the Duke’s Mayo Bowl win against North Carolina. He led the Gamecocks in rushing once again with 659 yards on the season.
After the big-time performance, Harris declared for the NFL draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday in Las Vegas.
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In a recent phone interview, Harris said he is excited about the draft and has thought about playing in the pros since he was a youngster.
“I think I was about 8 years old and I was pretty good at sports when I started playing in a youth rec league,” Harris said. “I started watching the guys in the NFL having fun playing and thought, ‘I can do that, too.’ “
Harris said dealing with his injuries before and during his junior year convinced him that the time was now to pursue his NFL dreams.
“I got hurt and those injuries were a big setback,” Harris said. “But I battled through them. I learned a lot playing at South Carolina, now I’m ready to take the next step.”
He said he learned about hard work and perseverance at Bradwell, where the Tigers went 0-10 his freshman year, before turning things around to have a winning season his junior year and reach the playoffs his senior year.
“That taught me to keep going and never stop working,” Harris said.
He started his career at South Carolina way down on the depth chart.
“I came in there as a young 18-year-old and I think I had seven running backs in front of me,” Harris said. “But I found a role on special teams and worked as hard as I could in the weight room to try to keep the coaches’ eyes on me until I worked my way up to the No. 2 spot. And once I got my chance, I just flipped the switch and started playing well.”
He said he started to realize how good he was when he had his first 100-yard game in an SEC game at Florida, which was his father’s favorite team for years.
“I thought ‘I can do this, it’s not that hard,’ ” Harris said. “I’m a good power running back, but I can also run with some finesse. I have good vision and I play smart. I feel like I get stronger and play better as the game goes on.”
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Mock drafts and NFL experts have Harris coming off the board in the NFL draft somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds. Harris said he’ll be watching the proceedings with his family in Atlanta.
“I see myself going in the later rounds, but it depends how it goes,” Harris said. “Maybe a team will take a bet on me earlier — but if not, it is what it is. I will prove myself no matter what happens.”
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at [email protected]. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism