Tylor Harris remembers the moment he knew football was the sport for him.
“My dad sat me down and said, ?Do you realize you can hit people as hard as you can and other people will cheer.’ That was a big turning point,” Harris said. “From that day on, I grew to love football. Now I can’t get enough of it.”
About eight years later, recruiters are making sure they get enough on Episcopal’s versatile senior-to-be.
Harris made a name for himself as a junior, garnering Class 2A All-State honors and All-Metro honors. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Harris was the Defensive MVP in District 7-2A after compiling 55 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four fumble recoveries as a defensive end.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Tylor will play college football,” Episcopal offensive line coach Randy Richard said. “The question is what level he will play on.
“I know because we’re a Class 2A school it’s hard to make comparisons with players from larger schools. I get that. But whenever Tylor is matched against players that have the same size and speed, he finds ways to excel. And to me, that counts big time.”
Making sure every moment counts is a key theme in Harris’ life. He carries a 3.5 GPA and has already met the NCAA’s academic qualifying requirements.
To date, Stanford, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi, North Texas, Minnesota and Memphis have offered scholarships to Harris, who is scheduled to play defensive end and offensive tackle in 2011.
Though he is not currently on the top tier of 2012 recruits, recruiters should know that Harris has a desire to succeed that transcends every task he attempts.
“I was in the band when I was younger and I was the first-chair saxophone,” Harris said. “Then our band director left, and I decided to try something different.
“My mother’s side of the family is very artistic. That side of me never came out until I started taking art classes. I love to doodle and draw, that’s one of the reasons why I might major in architectural engineering in college.
“Or it could be chemical engineering. I fell in love with chemistry in high school, so I have another decision to make.”
Harris spends much of his time pondering a different kind of chemistry these days. The Knights (10-2) won their first nine games a year ago before losing in the regional playoff round to Winnfield.
“Last year we had a real strong bond,” Harris said “We had an understanding on offense and defense. Each player knew the other players’ responsibilities.
“But we trusted each other to get things done. And if anything happened, there was always somebody else right there to help out. I see a lot of the same qualities with this team.”
Quarterback Vincent Dellocono and linebacker-running back Michael Henry are among the seniors set to take on key roles for the Knights in a revamped District 7-2A that now includes rival University, Redemptorist, Capitol High Academy, The Dunham School and Northeast.
“Last year was the first time we’d ever won a lot of games,” Harris said. “All of sudden, we were ranked sixth in the state, and we had a reputation.
“Learning how to handle that was a problem. I think we’re better prepared to deal with winning and everything that goes with it. We want to succeed and go beyond what we did last year.”
Harris credits his parents, Jefferson and Ramona, for helping him stay grounded and motivated. Jefferson Harris, a supervisor at Exxon-Mobil, also played defensive end at Glen Oaks and Louisiana Tech.
A steel-like focus is the reason why Harris doesn’t mention his 2010 football honors. Or participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl combine for underclassmen in January. Or the fact that he was the area’s top shot put specialist with a best of 54 feet, 9? inches.
“You could always tell Tylor could be something special,” Episcopal head football coach Travis Bourgeois said. “The big difference I see over the last year is that his maturity has finally caught up with his size and ability. He thinks through every phase of the game now.
“Physically, he continues to get bigger and stronger. The quickness he has is something that’s always been there. Only now it seems like he explodes when he comes off the line.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re going to play him at offensive tackle this year. He’ll make us a better team.”
This weekend, Harris will attend a lineman camp with teammates at Nicholls State. His next chance to excel on the big stage will be at the next LSU camp set for July.
“This spring we had coaches from the SEC, Big 10 and Pac-10 come through our school,” Bourgeois said. “That’s not something we’re used to, and Tylor was the reason they came.
“Not all of the those offered him. I’m sure some are waiting to see what he does this fall. To tell you the truth, we’re anxious to see what he does, too.”
Harris said he plans to decide on a list of finalists and then make official visits in the fall before committing to a college.
“It’s going to be a hectic schedule, but I’ve got to get it done,” Harris said of the recruiting plan. “And I also have to make sure I do everything I can for my team.”