Photo special to Fighting Hawks Magazine
After missing all of 2017 due to injury, Deion Harris is back and he’s ready to hit the fIeld.
It was the storyline that plagued North Dakota football in 2017:
Any coach will say the 3-8 record in 2017 had little to do with injuries and more to do with execution, and they may be right. However, it is hard to say that injuries did not play a significant role in North Dakota’s struggles last year. One of the more high-profile injuries was to defensive back Deion Harris. Harris suffered an Achilles injury that barred him from competing in any games last season.
This, after a 2016 campaign where Harris was named an All-American. Harris had 36 total tackles and five interceptions that season. What ensued was an All-Big Sky honor for Harris and a Big Sky conference title for North Dakota. While he was named a preseason All-American this year, Harris puts little stock in that.
“I just keep it in the back. This season I am taking away my social media, just taking away those distractions,” he said. “I just go out there and play ball, for the love of the game.”
However, one thing he puts plenty of stock in is his health and returning to the field. Since fall practice started in early August, Harris has not been limited in any capacity. “It’s been a long journey, being able to be out here on the field, playing at a high level, it means the world and it’s a blessing,” he said. “I thank God for everything I get on the field, but I still take it day-by-day.”
One thing that allowed Harris to be fully active this fall was how early he was cleared to play. Defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt thinks that was incredibly valuable for Harris. “He needs reps, if you have a significant injury, you need to get right mentally,” he said. “The good part is that he was cleared early enough to have a really good summer. So, he’s in shape and we don’t have to worry about him possibly getting hurt again.”
Schmidt also admits that Harris’ absence may have had something to do with the team’s struggles in 2017. “Deion is a proven player in our league. He was a main reason we won the Big Sky, because of his ability to make plays,” he said. For Harris, he looks to forget 2017 entirely and focus on the task at hand. “We’re going through practice every day and bonding with one another,” Harris said. “We’re just grinding. We’re really just focusing on ourselves and getting our own composure. Just staying focused on the task. Getting better every day and working at your craft.”
Harris is eying a big season in 2018, though. He missed out on the FBS game against Utah last season but got another chance as North Dakota played Washington on September 8. Washington, was the preseason pick to win the Pac-12. “I love being the underdog, it’s how I grew up,” he said. “Being able to showcase our talent as a team to people who don’t think we have it. I love that.”
What Deion Harris craved the most was that first moment on the field. While he got his chance to return on August 30, he has the bigger picture in mind. However, he looks toward the season ahead after playing in his first few games of 2018.
“I’m just rolling after that,” he said. “It’ll feel good, but once I get that composure back, after I get that one little tackle or whatever, I’ll just be rolling.”
Harris At A Glance
- Career Tackles: 80
- Career Interceptions: 8
- 2016 All-Big Sky selection
- 2016 Second Team All-American by American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press
- 2016 Third Team All-American by HERO Sports Network
- 2018 Preseason Second Team All-American selection
Harris In 2018 So Far
- 11 total tackles (three games)