Northeast grad pulls winning hand; headed to Charleston Southern

Darrius Harris, a 2016 Northeast graduate, is setting out to prove he’s a student and an athlete.

Darrius Harris, a Northeast grad, notched 20 tackles last year at Los Angeles Valley College. (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Darrius Harris bet on himself.

And he drew a royal flush.

Harris, a 2016 graduate of Northeast, had offers to go to Division III schools to continue his football career. And they were great offers, but he wanted more.

So shortly before he had to make his final decision, instead of heading to a D-3 school, he decided to go the junior college route.

He went to Los Angeles Valley College, but it wasn’t to become a better football player. That talent was never in question. But he did have to prove himself as a student.

At Los Angeles Valley, he did just that.

“I was never dumb, but I definitely didn’t do as much work as I should have in high school,” said Harris, who is living in Hunting Park this summer with his aunt. “I learned too late and when it came time to go to college, I didn’t have the grades to play.

“I thought about going to a D-3 school, and I was all set to, but I wanted more. So at the last minute, I decided I’d go to JUCO and it was the best decision I ever made.”

Harris continued to prove himself on the football field. But even better, he excelled in the classroom.

“I got a 3.0, I did a lot better,” Harris said. “It went really well. I always knew I could do it, but I had to do it to show colleges that I’m not just an athlete, but I’m a student-athlete. I worked for it, and I’m really proud.

“I just got my associate’s degree. I’m the first one in my family to get that. I worked for it, but I want more. I want to go on and do well in college, both in football and I want to do well in school. Both are important.”

Harris has a chance to shine. Last week, he committed to Charleston Southern University in South Carolina.

The school had everything Harris was looking for, both athletically and academically.

“It’s a great school, that was the first thing I liked about it,” Harris said. “But with football, I felt right at home. I got so much better playing at JUCO because at Northeast, we had great coaches, but in college, there are more coaches who have time to give you individual attention. And this school has even more coaches who can help me.

“It’s a great program. An up-and-coming program. And we open against Florida, and they told me I could come in and compete right away. That has me very motivated. Who wouldn’t want to play in the swamp with the entire country watching? It’s a great opportunity for me to show what I can do.”

A defensive end, he did that last year at Los Angeles Valley.

In eight games, Harris notched 20 tackles and a sack and a fumble recovery.

He also got bigger and stronger, adding 35 pounds of muscle since he helped lead Northeast to the Public League championship game during his senior year.

Harris isn’t the finished product yet. He wants to continue to get stronger and faster and learn more about the game. But he feels he’s on the right track.

“I’ve worked really hard since graduating,” Harris said. “The main goal is definitely playing professional football. I want to play in the NFL. I know it’s something everyone dreams of, but I’m not going to stop until I get there.”

He credits a lot of that success to his days at Northeast.

His junior college definitely helped add to his body of work, but he got a great foundation at his high school.

“Coach (Phil) Gormley is my guy, he did a lot for me,” Harris said. “And they have a lot of great coaches, the guys there helped me so much, man. And now they even have Deion Barnes coaching there. He is such a great coach for defensive linemen.

“He runs a camp that any defensive lineman should look into. He knows a lot. He played in the NFL and could have stuck around if he got a few breaks because he’s really good. Nothing is promised, but he’s a great player who could play anywhere. I work out with him and he’s a big help.”

Someday, like Barnes, Harris would like to get involved helping young players.

He’s majoring in criminal justice and in the future, he would like to coach, or at least give advice to young athletes.

He’ll almost certainly talk about his rise to getting a scholarship to Charleston Southern.

“I will definitely tell them to work hard not just in football, but in school,” Harris said. “I really want to find a way to give back and help kids because I didn’t always have a lot of help, but when I did, it really made a difference.

“I made mistakes by not working as hard as I could in school, but now I’m back on track. Doing that makes such a difference. I love playing football, but I’m not there to play football. I’m there to go to school. I just want them both to work out now.”