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4B - The Michigan Daily - Saturday, November 4, 2006
Saturday, November 4, 2006- The Michigan Daily- 5B
David is Goliath By Stephanie Wright IDaily Sports Editor
A11 season long, David Harris has been a one-man
The most memorable might be the monstrous
wallop he laid on Iowa quarterback Drew Tate deep in
Hawkeye territory two weeks ago.
"Oh yeah, I knew I got him good," Harris said with a
smile. "I turned around and saw him lie on the ground
for a little bit."
Harris's mind-numbing blows have garnered the fifth-
year senior heaps of praise in recent weeks. Michigan
coach Lloyd Carr and former Ohio State linebacker Chris
Spielman both called Harris the best college linebacker
they've seen this season.
And as of Oct. 26, ESPN's NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper
projected Harris as the 23rd overall pick in this April's
draft, one spot ahead of Penn State's stud linebacker Paul
But you wouldn't know it by talking to Harris.
Humble and soft-spoken, Harris deflects any acclaim
thrown his way, crediting the defensive line, his coaches,
his opponent - anyone but himself.
And he might not be where he is today if he hadn't.
No matter what life has thrownhisway, Harris's humil-
ity, dedication and quiet perseverance have carried him.
He's living proof that actions really do speak louder
When David's mom, Shirley Harris, says football has
been with her son since birth, she isn't kidding. She even
has the pictures to prove it.
In early 1984, David's parents brought him home from
the hospital to find that his older brother had already
placed a football in the baby's crib.
Before he could even walk, his destiny was sealed.
The Grand Rapids native started playing organized
football when he was about 8 years old. Right away, it was
clear David was built for the sport.
Maybe a little too built.
Even though David was born prematurely, he grew
rapidly, and by the time he took to the gridiron for the
first time, he was too heavy to suit up full-time for his Pop
Warner league's 8-year-old team.
The coaches let him play offense on every snap, but he
could only line up for a few defensive downs each game.
That didn't sit well with David, who desperately wanted
to play defense.
By fifth grade, David was about eight pounds over the
weight limit and still restricted to the offensive side of the
ball. One of his coaches told him that if he dropped his
weight, he could get on the field on defense, too.
So the linebacker-to-be took matters into his own
"When I came home, he had Saran wrap from his neck
down to his toes," Shirley said. "When I asked him why,
he said 'Coach told me I need to lose weight.' ... I took the
scissors and went straight down his back, down one leg
and then down the other leg.
"That's when they moved him up to the senior team."
From Pop Warner to Ann Arbor, all David wanted was
to be on the field. Heading into ninth grade, he practiced
with Ottawa Hills High School's varsity squad for nearly
all of its trainingcamp.
But two days before the season started, David asked to
be moved down to JV because he didn't want to spend the
year sitting on the bench.
The extra playing time paid off. In three varsity sea-
sons, Harris notched 295 tackles and 16 sacks, and set
school records for solo tackles in a season (114) and career
Never one to be confined to either side of the ball, Harris
was a regular at fullback during his senior season, when
he amassed 565 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
But his earth-shattering hits as a linebacker made him
"(The other parents) called him 'the terminator' in
high school," Shirley said. "Because when he hit someone,
you knew it."
Five years later, the nickname still describes David
Even though David's ferocious hits were notorious at
Ottawa Hills, he was relatively unheralded coming out of
high school. Rivals.com ranked the three-star recruit as
the nation's No. 23 inside linebacker in 2002 - 11 spots
below now-reserve defensive end Jeremy Van Alstyne and
two spots ahead of now-starting fullback Obi Oluigbo.
None of that mattered to David, a good student who
had his heart set on donning maize and blue.
When he took the ACT as a ninth grader, Michigan was
the first university listed on his form. If he'd had his way,
it would have been the only university, too. Shirley said
she had to convince him to even consider other schools.
It must have been a dream come true when he signed
his letter of intent.
But David's first two years in Ann Arbor were far from
ideal. After redshirting the 2002 season, Harris recorded
two tackles in the Wolverines' 2003 season opener.
Harris's promising redshirt freshman campaign ended
the following week when he injured his left ACL and had
to leave the field on a stretcher during Michigaa's blow-
out win over Houston.
"The most disappointing thing in that game was that
David Harris suffered a knee injury that will require sur-
gery," Carr said at the time. "David will miss the rest of
the season. That's a bigloss for our football team, not only
(because of) the fact that he is a very promising football
player. (He is also) a wonderful young man, so that's a big
loss for us."
Harris underwent surgery the following Friday, spend-
ing the night at Campus Inn before heading home to
Grand Rapids for the weekend.
The doctors had given David a large prescription of
Vicodin to ease the pain, and he took two pills when he
first got home. But David didn't like the way they made
him feel. So Shirley grabbed the bottle and flushed the
rest of the pills.
"He just toughed it out," Shirley said.
Shirley described David as downbut notdepressed dur-
ing his recovery, an attitude that she attributes to the way
he had bounced back from serious injuries in the past.
When he was about 3 years old, David ran into his dad's
bench press, and the end of one of the barbells hit him
right on the bridge of his nose.
Doctors told his parents that if the barbell had hit him
slightly to the left or right, it would have taken out one of
his eyes. A scar from the injury is still visible on his nose
Six years later, David flipped over his bicycle and land-
ed so that a screw lodged itself in his head, sending him
back to the hospital.
"I told (the doctor) to give me the bad news first," Shir-
ley said. "He said, 'No, here's the good news. The good
news is that the screw didn't penetrate his skull.' I said,
'What's the bad news?' He said, 'He's got a hard head.' "
Jokes aside, David would need that resilience to keep
his spirits up during the year-long rehabilitation from his
"I doubted myself a lot," Harris told the Associated
Press earlier this year. "It's just one of those things where
you have to keep telling yourself that you're going to come
back and be better than you were before. You just have to
progress like that."
On Sept. 4, 2004, almost exactly a year after suffering
the injury, Harris returned to the field, notching two spe-
cial teams tackles against Miami (Ohio). He saw limited
action in Michigan's next two games before earning his
first career start, against Iowa.
As it turns out, that first start might have come a little
too soon. Shirley said David overdid it against the Hawk-
eyes and his leg locked up later that week.
Even though he traveled to Indiana the following week,
he didn't play.
When David brought his mom and dad, Timothy Har-
ris, Sr., down to the sideline before the game to tell them
he wouldn't be suiting up, Shirley could see how disap-
pointed he was.
"I just told him, 'Just take it easy,' " Shirley said. " 'If
another person can come back, you can do it too, just don't
take it too fast. You don't give your body time to heal,
(and) you can do more damage to it than was originally
After Indiana, David sat out the next four games before
working his way back into the lineup for the Wolverines'
final three contests, including their Rose Bowl loss.
A complete comeback would have to wait one more
Considering Harris's redshirt freshman season ended
in its second game, it's only fitting that his redshirt junior
season began the same week.
David missed last year's season opener because of an
ankle injury he suffered in training camp. But he earned
his second career start against Notre Dame the following
week, picking up eight tackles and one forced fumble in
He hasn't looked back since.
Harris stormed onto the scene last year, finishing with
seven tackles for loss and ateam-high 88 tackles. For that,
Harris earned the Roger Zatkoff Award, presented annu-
ally to Michigan's top linebacker.
This year, the 6-foot-2, 239-pounder is receiving plenty
of national hype. Last month, Harris was named one of 10
semifinalists for the 2006 Butkus Award, given annually
to the nation's best collegiate linebacker.
"It's an honor, but I know that doesn't mean anything,"
Harris said. "It's not going to help me play better, (and)
it's not going to be give me an advantage over an opponent
lined up across from me."
Neither will weighing in on April's NFL Draft. Hard
as it is to believe, Harris really does seem to have blocked
the NFL out of his mind for now.
That doesn't mean the NFL has stopped thinking about
Harris. Agents have tried to contact him, but he decided
before the season to redirect their brochures and phone
calls to his parents until after Michigan's bowl game.
"They call, and I tell them what David told me," Shirley
said. "I'm not going to talk to anyone until after his NCAA
eligibility is over."
Said David: "I can't afford to think about it right now.
I have to worry about this season, take it one game at a
time. I know that if I take care of business, that will take
care of itself."
So far, so good.
Through nine games, Harris is pacing the Wolverines
with 55 tackles, including 40 solo stops, and his eight
tackles for loss rank third on the team.
When asked if he ever feels guilty after a hit, Harris
was predictably mum. He just shook his head, smirked
and said no.
But really, he didn't need to say anything.
Harris's hits speak for themselves.
Fifth-year senior David Harris leads Michigan with 55 tackles, including 40 solo stops, in nine games
this season. Harris has also notched eight tackles for loss, good enough for third on the team.
David Harris made a name for himself with his monstrous hits. Last month, Harris was named one
of 10 semifinalists for the 2006 Butkus Award, given annually tothe nation's top college linebacker.