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By LARRY VAUGHT
Mason Countyâ€™s Josh Harris is not one of the players prominently mentioned in Kentuckyâ€™s 2012 football recruiting class, but former Mason quarterback Nealâ€ˆPawsat thinks Harris is vastly underrated.
Harris played only three games his senior season because of a season-ending foot injury that coach David Buchanan says has healed well. â€œHe is working hard and ahead of schedule. He will easily be ready to go by June,â€ said Buchanan. Harris was cleared to Monday to resume running every day depending on the pain level he can withstand.
Pawsat, who now plays at Georgetown College, thinks that injury played a part in Harris not being more highly rated.
â€œI also think his early commitment to UK kind of took him off the recruiting map and that caused him to maybe take a back seat to guys who are still deciding on what school to go to,â€ said Pawsat. â€œBut I think committing early like he did really shows UK fans his passion for football and his love for the UK programs.
â€œSome players just have â€˜it. You can tell he has â€˜itâ€™ when you watch him make plays on defense from sideline to sideline. Some nights, I didn’t know what side of the field (defensive) coach (Larry) Harris put him on because he was making plays when the ball went to the left and right. He just has an incredible knack for getting to the football.â€
In his career, Harris rushed for 2,848 yards and 42 touchdowns on 350 carries (8.1 yards per attempt). He also threw for 105 yards and two scores, and had 582 yards and eight touchdowns receiving. He made 287 tackles and recovered six fumbles. â€œHis speciality was hitting people and creating fumbles,â€ Buchanan said.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips never wavered on Harrisâ€™ commitment even after he was injured.
â€œIt says they are loyal and they do what they say they are going to do. I couldn’t be happier with how they have handled it,â€ Buchanan said of the Kentucky staff.
Buchanan, like Pawsat, thinks Kentucky is getting a special player. The Mason coach says Harris reminds him most of two players â€” Joseph Jefferson and Mike Mitchell â€” he helped coach in the Kentucky-Tennessee all-star game. Both went on to NFL careers.
â€œHe is fast, quick. physical, and a great football IQ.Â Based on that comparison, I think he will do extremely well,â€ Buchanan said.
Pawsat says several things always impressed him about Harris when they played together.
â€œHe plays the game 110 MPH (miles per hour) and plays so physical. He made some pretty incredible hits in high school. The thing is, when I played with him, he probably was about 6-0, 185 pounds.Â I’m sure that weight part will change when he gets to college, but he doesn’t have a huge frame,â€ Pawsat said. â€œBut you can throw out those numbers with how physical he is when coming downhill to make plays.
â€œAnother thing that impressed me was his head for the game. He is such a cerebral guy. He is great at anticipating and reacting. Those are two abilities that a lot of times you can’t teach and will really benefit him in the SEC.â€
Thereâ€™s one other trait that Pawsat thinks will make Harris a success at Kentucky.
â€œHis passion for the game certainly makes me know his work ethic will let him succeed at UK. That kid flat out loves the game of football,â€ Pawsat said. â€œYou could tell not only in games, but in practice, too.Â He goes full speed 100 percent of the time and loves competition. One thing I love about him is he hates getting outworked. Absolutely hates it. That rubs off on his teammates and will benefit him at the next level.â€
Pawsat says playing at Kentucky is important to Harris.
â€œIt means everything to him. That’s the only place he wanted to play. He was the 1st player in his class to commit to UK. He got the offer and committed to coach Phillips on the spot,â€ Pawsat said. â€œI think that says enough when asking how much it means to him to play at UK. Honestly, when he told me he had committed on the spot, it kind of surprised me. I knew he was going to get multiple offers from other D1 programs. But he told me he didn’t want to play anywhere else and that has remained true throughout the entire process.
â€œI am very proud to see him go to UK. He always wanted to go there and he put forth the work necessary to achieve his dream. It’s always great to see someone you’ve known for a long time work so hard for something and get it. I was just privileged to play with him for three years.Â He certainly made my job a whole lot easier and really made me look good a lot of times.â€
Buchanan thinks Harris could play multiple positions at Kentucky, but Pawsat knows where he thinks Harris would be best.
â€œI think he could be a great strong safety in the SEC. I think strong safety would put him in the best position to make plays. He’s a downhill guy, so strong safety would give him some flexibility as far as playing near the line of scrimmage in the box and playing deep in coverage, which he also does well,â€ Pawsat said.
Pawsat says Harris has a different personality on the football field than he does away from the game.
“Josh is a completely different person between the lines. When he gets on the field, there is a fiery passion that comes out of him,â€ the Georgetown College quarterback said. â€œAway from football he’s a very respectful person that does what he’s asked to do and keeps to himself.
â€œHe’s a guy that you can count on.Â I always knew that if I got the random urge to throw on a Sunday night or something, I could always call him and count on him to be at the field in 10 minutes.â€