HS football's next big thing: GR Christian's Harris | News
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - For those of you who watched the Notre Dame football game Saturday night, you watched the wrong game.
For those of you who left Ford Field to head back to Ishpeming or Portland -- or anywhere in the continental U.S. -- you should have stuck around.
Every one of you missed the Next Big Thing: Drake Harris of Grand Rapids Christian.
After beginning the Division 3 state championship game with a 49-yard reception on the second play, Harris put on a show to end all shows.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound junior receiver who committed to Michigan State for football and basketball, caught eight passes for a finals-record 243 yards and a touchdown. He also became just the 12th player in the country to surpass the 2,000-yard receiving mark -- he finished with 2,016 -- in a single season.
But those are just numbers you are reading in a newspaper.
You needed to be there to see him blow by defensive backs or catch short passes and use moves high school athletes are not supposed to have yet to turn them into big gains.
Most of all, you needed to see Christian's final drive in regulation when the Eagles moved in position for Joel Schipper's 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to force overtime before Schipper won it, 40-37, with a 27-yarder.
Christian took the ball at its 20 with 2:06 left and on fourth-and-3 from its 46, Alex VanDeVusse threw what was essentially a jump ball that Harris skied between two defenders and pulled down for a 15-yard gain.
"That play wasn't even supposed to go to me," Harris said, laughing. "I just turned around; he threw the ball up, so I just went up and make a play."
Four plays later, Christian was fourth-and-8 when Harris went up and caught another 15-yard pass and had his legs taken out from under him and flipped in the air. When he landed, everyone in Ford Field gasped.
"I landed on my neck, but that's part of football," he said with a shrug. "I knew I was going to get hit, I knew (I) had to come down with the ball to keep that drive going."
That may have been the moment Harris went from being a basketball player who plays football to a football player who plays basketball.
"When I was coming into high school I thought I was just going to play basketball," Harris said. "And then my sophomore year, Coach (Don) Fellows kept talking to me. I never realized my talents I have for football and now I'm putting it all together and I'm going to keep working hard to achieve my goals."
MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo began recruiting Harris, who was a basketball phenom by the time he reached high school. Izzo never attempted to dissuade Harris from playing football.
"He loves players that play football," Harris said. "He told me that. He encouraged me and he's with me with the whole situation and loves that I play football."
So does VanDeVusse, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown.
Because of Harris, VanDeVusse knows his passes to him can be off a little bit.
"More than a little bit," VanDeVusse said, laughing. "He makes me look really, really good. Balls that are behind him he slows down, catches it one-handed if he has to. Balls that are too high, he jumps and gets flipped like you saw. People don't necessarily think he's tough, but to have a guy go up 3 or 4 feet in the air, get flipped, catch the ball, land on his back and his head -- he's tough in my book. I'd take him on my team every single day, he's amazing."
Harris was amazing and people asked whether his was the best finals performance by a receiver since Saginaw's Charles Rogers.
Seriously? Rogers caught only one pass in the 1999 championship -- a 60-yard TD pass. This was the best finals performance by a receiver since the beginning of time, all things considered.
On the way up the tunnel following the game, I asked Harris whether he is still committed to Michigan State.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I'm solid."
But what if Alabama starts calling?
"They already are -- a lot," he said. "I'm solid."
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.