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Football: From under the radar to under the spotlight

Harris continues to build his legacy

By Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer

R.J. Harris. It’s a name that most people interested in football in the UNH community have heard before.

A wide receiver for University’s football team, Harris is a decorated athlete who caught 76 passes for a total of 1004 yards (an average of roughly 83 yards per game) and scored five touchdowns just in the last season alone. All of this makes him 21 receptions shy and 140 yards shy of UNH’s Top-10 Best Players of All-Time.

Even with this, he maintains a modest outlook on his success, saying that his greatest triumph of the last four years is not a personal one, but one he shares with the other players of getting to the semi-finals at North Dakota State during last year’s season.

“We’ve never done that before in UNH history, so it was definitely pretty cool to be apart of that,” he said.

For him, that’s the best part: the family he’s found in his teammates.

“Our team motto this year isAs One’, and it is what it is,” he said. “We stick together as a team and the coaches are past players (and) alumni. We’re all one big family.”

And though it may seem as if all this comes naturally to him, Harris didn’t always start off this way. Having played basketball— which he says will always be his first love — for most of his life, Harris made the switch to football in seventh grade and the passion caught fire from there.

“I can just let out aggression within the rules of the game and you can’t really do that as much in basketball,” he said. “[Tackling is essentially] a big, mean bear-hug.”

Born in Germany, Harris grew up in Maryland and dreamed of playing college basketball at big name schools like the University of Tennessee or Xavier University in Ohio. Those plans changed, However, when he made the decision to come to UNH instead, both a college and state he had never really known before.

“I had no idea what New Hampshire was and my favorite part was definitely not the snow or the cold, that’s for sure,” he said.

But when he saw the Saturday game days, of people walking from downtown to Cowell Stadium or tailgating at Boulder Field, he knew he had made the right choice.

And there are some things about Harris that you might not find on his athletic profile.

“The other two receivers think they can draw better than me, but I’m definitely going to say I’m the best drawer out of the wide receivers,” Harris said.

Though he says that he can “draw pretty much anything” you ask him to, he says that he’s best at drawing the characters from the Spongebob cartoon series and practices the artistic outlet primarily in class.

“Once I lose focus, I go back to drawing. Then, once I draw a couple of pictures, I get bored with that and it makes me go back to focusing on class,” he said.

A senior Communications major now, Harris originally started off as an Athletic Training major, but decided to switch after realizing that he had taken on too much.

“When I came in freshman year, I had four classes and all four of my classes had labs,” he said. “That’s like eight classes as a freshman, then football, games, and studying. I was just overwhelmed.”

Instead, he takes his newfound wisdom and passes the knowledge on to the younger members of the team, making him a perfect example of the team’s motto.

“It’s cool because we have a couple freshman receivers, and whenever they need stuff, they come up to me and ask me what did I do, how do i do it,” he said. “And not just receivers, but any of the young guys on the team.”

And though he says his dream is to end up a professional football player, he does have a back up plan, something he believes is necessary for any student athlete, no matter how confident they might be.

“I’ve worked so hard at, for so long, and that’s just always been a goal of mine, to play professional football… At least have a shot to play, that would be my goal,” he said. “But if not, I’ve got a good degree here from UNH and if football doesn’t work out, you got to have a back up plan. I’m ready to go into the real world”

His back-up plan, he says, is to help out those who might have a story similar to his.

“One thing I struggled with coming out of high school was the whole recruiting thing, just flying under the radar … People just don’t think you can do it,” he said. “I want to be one of those guys who is able to help those kids in my shoes down the road, open a business maybe that helps kids … get noticed.”

Even when it comes to predicting what might happen at an upcoming game either here on campus or on the road, Harris remains optimistic about the uncertainty.

“So far, it’s going really well… Honestly, you just have to take it week-by-week,” he said. “But if we handle our business and play our game, the sky’s the limit.”

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