By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Damien Harris still had plenty of time to consider just where he wanted to play football at the next level.
Still, the standout Madison Southern junior running back didn’t really see any point in delaying his decision any longer.
“It just stood out to him,” Madison Southern football coach Jon Clark said of the University of Michigan. “He felt comfortable there from the very beginning. He fell in love with it when he was there. He looked at Ohio State pretty hard too. At the end of the day, that is where his heart is and this is what feels right for him.”
On Monday afternoon, Harris announced on his twitter account that he had verbally committed to Michigan.
The 5-foot-11 running back had offers from a long list of Division I schools, including some of the country’s elite programs — Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Florida.
Harris was a Michigan fan growing up and he made several trips to school’s campus in recent years. He attended the Michigan-Michigan State game last season in Ann Arbor and that experience was without a doubt big factor in his decision.
In addition, Harris was eager to make his commitment public so that he could focus on football.
“He felt like, I know this is what I want, so why wait?,” Clark said. “And, I don’t think people realize how overwhelming this process can be at this level. It started for him at the end of his freshman year. It’s been going on for a year and a half and to do it for another year and a half, that’s three years. It just gets old. I think he wants to move on and focus on what he needs to do.”
Harris burst on to the scene as a freshman and then had a breakout season in 2012. In 10 games last year, he had 1,911 yards on 160 carries. He scored 37 touchdowns and also caught five passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
After that standout season, Harris was named a MaxPreps Sophomore All-American and he started to get some serious attention from Division I schools all across the nation.
But, it was his performance at the Under Armour All-American Combine in January in San Antonio, Texas that really turned heads.
Harris was one of only 30 sophomores among the 500 players nationally invited to the combine, which is designed to showcase the best football players in the country for scouting services. He was named the MVP of the combine by 24/7 Sports after posting jaw-dropping times in the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run.
Harris also turned in a personal-best performance on the bench press.
“He’s put on some weight,” Clark said. “He’s about 210 and he’s still running low 4.3s.”
At this time last year, Harris was not seriously considering a scholarship offer from Kentucky. But after Mark Stoops was hired to take over the program in December, the Southern standout did have some serious interaction with the new coaching staff.
Still, in the end, the excitement created by the hiring of Stoops at UK wasn’t enough to change his mind.
“He gave Kentucky a consideration, with the new staff there,” Clark said. “They don’t think that, but he did. He probably wouldn’t have looked at the school before (the new staff) got there.”