Gamecocks, Al Harris Jr. stick together through injury

Special to GoGamecocksFebruary 25, 2014 

Al Harris Jr. and St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo

DAVID FURONES — Special to GoGamecocks

South Carolina cornerback signee Al Harris Jr. did not have an ideal senior season.

Already committed to the Gamecocks in July, Harris Jr. only played in three games because of a hamstring injury. Once he was deemed out for the year, he transferred midseason from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, a national football powerhouse in sunny South Florida, to attend Blue Valley High School, a public school in Stilwell, Kan. There, he moved in with his father, former All-Pro NFL cornerback Al Harris Sr., who is now defensive backs coach for the Chiefs, to train with him while he finished his academics.

South Carolina could have considered Harris Jr., a consensus three-star prospect, damaged goods and decided to look elsewhere at cornerback, such a position of need with both of last year’s starters gone.

But just as Harris wouldn’t have given serious attention to other programs had they tried to sway him from the Gamecocks after his commitment, the USC coaches made a similar commitment to him.

“That was a big relief for me. It’s like a family feel,” said Harris, who had four tackles, an interception and a pass deflection in his three games as a senior. “When I committed, I was committed. I loved the school, and I didn’t have any other [college] choices.”

As far as the hamstring goes, Harris says it’s now 100 percent. He has put his struggles behind him and has grown from them.

“I realized that God had a plan for me,” Harris said. “Everything isn’t going to go perfectly. I believe I was put in this position to make me better at the end of the day.”

Although he’s finishing high school at Blue Valley, Harris returned to St. Thomas Aquinas for National Signing Day to a ceremony in the school’s auditorium where more than a dozen teammates signed letters of intent to accept scholarships at Division-I programs, including quarterback Wade Freebeck, who signed with SEC East foe Vanderbilt.

“It was good to see Al. I love that kid,” says Harris’ high school coach, Rocco Casullo. “He’s a tremendous worker. He’s a great young man, great human being. I’m going to really miss him.”

Harris says he will arrive in early June to South Carolina, the school he committed to without taking a visit. He took his official visit to in November.

He’s excited to learn the Gamecocks defense.

“I like the defensive scheme,” he says. “They’re going to put me in a lot of situations to be in press man, which is typically what I like to be in.”

It’s similar to what he’s used to running in high school.

“Al is as polished as it gets when it comes to playing the cornerback position,” Casullo says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in some rotation, whether it be nickel, dime or even starting at corner.”

Not only did Harris get to come back home on Signing Day, he also received news that another area cornerback, Chris Lammons from nearby Plantation, announced he’ll be joining the Gamecocks just two hours earlier.

“He has the same skill set as me at cornerback,” says Harris, who at one point reached out to Lammons on Twitter to say he would love to have him as a teammate. “They want guys that can press. I know him from playing with him. He’s a great competitor. I know I hated going against him on the offensive side, so it’s great to get him over at corner.”

Playing at around 160 pounds his senior season, Harris says he’s dedicating himself in the weight room before joining the Gamecocks in the summer.

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