Harris looks back fondly at his Miami career
CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Jacory Harris has seen just about everything in his four years at Miami.
Fans have screamed for him. Fans have screamed at him. He was a team leader, he was suspended for breaking NCAA rules, accepted all the blame when the Hurricanes lost, tried to deflect much of the credit when the Hurricanes won.
In short, it's been a wild ride.
And now it's coming to an end.
Harris plays his final college game Friday when Miami (6-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) meets Boston College (3-8, 2-5). For the Eagles, postseason hope was gone long ago. For the Hurricanes, that hope ended Sunday when university officials said they decided it was in the best interest of the program to pass up any bowl opportunities, a move made in response to the ongoing NCAA probe into Miami's athletic department.
So for Harris -- one of 12 Miami players sanctioned by the NCAA in August for dealings with a former booster -- this finale comes faster than expected.
"I enjoyed every last bit of it," Harris said. "I kind of live life pretty fast. I got to go through adversity pretty young. I've been through hard times, go through good times, when everybody loves you, when everybody hates you. It kind of makes you grow and mature as a person so that you can see things. And when I go through life after football, I don't think anything will be able to faze me.
"No regrets. I've enjoyed everything that comes with being part of this team," he added.
Playing at a school that boasts two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta, along with someone in Ken Dorsey who was widely considered to be one of the top college players ever, Harris' career-ending stats have him in some seriously good company. He already holds the school record with 680 completions, 12 more than Dorsey. He'll finish second in passing yards (8,581 so far) and touchdowns thrown (69).
He'll also leave with no championships -- a clear disappointment for someone who came to Miami amid the highest of expectations.
"That's what I wish I could have back," Harris said. "But you've got to move forward."
Teammates have been drawn to Harris since his first day on campus, and maybe it's telling that one of his closest friends -- and biggest supporters -- is the person who has been stuck behind him on the depth chart.
"He's going to be remembered as a great quarterback," said Stephen Morris, Harris' backup. "The last couple games he had, he turned everything around. The way he led this team through all the adversities, the suspensions, the coaching changes, all of it, he really set the standard. That's one of the best legacies that you can leave. This team revolved around Jacory."
Harris has been an absolute lightning rod in his time at Miami.
His freshman year was played amid a bit of a quarterback controversy, the fallout of which eventually led to Robert Marve transferring to Purdue. As a sophomore, Harris found himself immersed in Heisman conversations after leading Miami to wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech -- two ranked teams -- to open the season, before eventually tailing off. Then last year, Harris threw more interceptions than touchdowns, Miami was mediocre and coach Randy Shannon got fired when the regular season ended. Miami went to the Sun Bowl and Harris threw seven passes, three of which were intercepted.
"I didn't know what to think at first," Miami coach Al Golden acknowledged.
It didn't take long for Harris to win his new coach over.
On Jan. 2, Golden remembers Harris coming to his office to talk about plans for this season. The next day, Golden looked out the window of his office and saw Harris and receiver Tommy Streeter working on routes. Even when Harris found himself linked to the Nevin Shapiro scandal that exploded in August, Golden never wavered in believing that the quarterback would be a true leader for this team.
"I hope he gets the reception he deserves Friday," Golden said. "He really personifies what we want here. He's a fighter. I know it doesn't always work out the way everybody wants, but he deserves that reception."
Harris is on pace for a career-best season in completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. He goes into Friday with 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions -- a year ago, that ratio was 14-to-15. Maybe there was something that clicked in those workouts back in January, since Streeter had a breakout season in 2011 as well.
Harris, Streeter, linebacker Sean Spence and offensive lineman Brandon Washington were part of that heralded eight-man recruiting class from Miami Northwestern that came into college fresh off two straight state titles. On Friday, their time together ends, too.
"This past year, I've experienced a lot of things that I'll never forget, with Jacory along with a group of guys I came in here with," Streeter said. "It's unfortunate those guys are leaving but I wish those guys the best. They've done a great job here moving the program forward."
Harris says he doesn't know what he will do after football. Once he gets through Friday, he'll think about what it'll take to prepare himself for NFL workouts and, he hopes, next year's draft.
He doesn't want to coach. He lists sleeping as a favorite hobby. He can't see a day where he's not playing the game, either.
For now, all that can wait. He's got one game left at "The U," and has half-seriously warned Golden that his emotions will come out Friday afternoon.
"I just want to be known as one of the greatest, coolest guys ever to come to the University of Miami," Harris said. "So that's me."
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