RALEIGH (April 15) – Sophomore linebacker Joe Harris of Saint Augustine’s University has his mind on the present with an eye on the future.
Harris, the Falcons’ top returning tackler, is staying in tip-top shape while taking classes remotely from home in Jacksonville, Fla. His immediate goal is to be ready for the 2020 football season in midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
His bigger goal? To be one of the best linebackers in the CIAA.
“I want to make the All-Conference team my last two years and have one CIAA championship by the time I leave,” Harris said.
His motivation extends to the classroom, where Harris excels in the books. An exercise science major, Harris sports a 3.27 cumulative grade point average.
His football resume is already impressive. As a freshman, Harris garnered All-CIAA First Team and All-CIAA Rookie Team honors after ranking 10th in the conference in tackles (58) and ninth in tackles per game (6.4).
His numbers increased in 2019, ranking fifth in the CIAA in tackles (73) and seventh in tackles per game (7.3). Though left off the All-CIAA team, he solidified his reputation as an emerging performer in the league.
The spotlight shined mostly this past season on teammate Durrell Nash and deservedly so. Nash was an HBCU All-American linebacker who earned All-CIAA and All-Region accolades. Nash led the conference in tackles in his only season with the Falcons, but Harris quietly had a stellar year.
His achievements the past two seasons caught the attention of several observers. One was new SAU Head Coach David Bowser.
Bowser raved about Harris after watching him on film and in person as an assistant head coach at Fayetteville State University. As a freshman, Harris tallied six tackles including three tackles for loss in a three-point homecoming defeat to the Broncos. He totaled four tackles in a two-point SAU road upset win over the Southern Division champs this season.
After becoming Falcons’ head coach, Bowser was even more impressed with Harris. He believes the sky’s the limit for his star linebacker.
“I see Joe reclaiming All-CIAA status and then some,” Bowser said. “I was impressed that he made All-CIAA as a freshman. Joe had to defer a little bit with [Durrell] Nash coming in last season but he stuck out on film. Joe is a natural born leader who can play inside or outside the box.”
Harris will be a key cog on defense, so staying fit is paramount. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled spring practice, but it hasn’t stopped him from working out vigorously.
Harris trains four days a week at Back 2 Basicss Sports and Fitness Training and a local community park back home, working on strength and conditioning while practicing self distancing. The football standout also devotes time each day on academics to maintain his impressive GPA.
Individual workouts are different from spring team practice, according to Harris. The pace is more controlled than team workouts, which tend to be faster paced.
Though he stays in touch with teammates and coaches through group chats every day, Harris misses the camaraderie of spring practice.
“That’s how you win championships by working together, sweating together,” Harris said. “Plus, the communication is better. I can see my teammates or go by coach’s office while on campus.”
The annual Blue-White spring intrasquad game was also canceled.
“I am kinda bummed out about the spring game,” Harris added. “It was a chance to show how much better we’ve gotten since the fall. It was another chance for my parents to see me play.”
He’s not complaining, however. Under the watchful eye of his personal trainer Jerrand Nesmith, Harris remains physically and mentally sharp.
He expects to be ready in August, when preseason practice begins.
“I’m taking care of my body,” Harris said. “I want to be a stronger, faster version of me.”
-Office of Sports Information