September 6, 2013

Nose tackle Harrison took circuitous path to possible starting role in NFL



“I wasn’t what they thought I was going to be, whatever that meant,” Harrison said.
Miller stayed in touch with Harrison and told him about William Penn, after he got an assistant job there. Harrison didn’t bother researching the school. Miller drove the 1,200-mile, Iowa-Mississippi-Iowa round trip, and like that, Harrison was in a new world — and on his butt in the snow.
“I wanted to go home immediately,” he said.
Miller made him comfortable. He brought Harrison to the store to supply his dorm room. At Harrison’s request, he drove to Mississippi and moved Harrison’s girlfriend to Iowa, where they lived in a house with their two infant children, now ages 4 and 5. When Harrison’s mom wanted to attend a game, Miller had his brother, a truck driver, meet her halfway and bring her to Iowa.
“I knew he didn’t have much to go back to, and I wanted to make sure things worked out for him,” Miller said.
Harrison’s transformation to an NFL nose tackle began in William Penn’s dining hall. He rarely missed a meal. His dinners were one-hour marathons. He weighed 250 pounds when he arrived at school and 300 by the start of his freshman year. He started his senior year at 360 and played at 335.
But he didn’t move like a fat slob when he played basketball every day at noon. One day, when Harrison was pushing 360, Iowa’s star defensive end, Adrian Clayborn, stopped by the gym. A 280-pound man who would be drafted 20th overall in 2011, Clayborn opened eyes by dunking. Harrison one-upped him with a 360-degree slam. The gym went nuts.
Area scouts from NFL teams heard about him. First, a Tampa Bay scout showed up, then others, eventually one or two a week during Harrison’s senior year. By this time, Harrison had already spurned interest from larger schools, including California. Miller gave him a home in Iowa, and he wanted to stay.

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