Person High School defensive tackle Joshua Harris lifted his massive 6-3, 316 pound frame from behind the table in the schools library.
Surrounded by family and friends to his left and right, Harris surveyed the five hats in front of him: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia Tech. He leaned towards the right side of the table first, and briefly toyed with the North Carolina hat, playing with the crowd in the jammed packed library at Person High School. He then picked up the only red hat on the table, and his family followed suit, each one reveling N.C. State t-shirts tucked away under the tables.
As soon as Harris put the hat on his head someone from the crowd shouted “Homegrown!”
College football programs and their fans love a good hashtag. In the age of social media you better have a catchy one so fans can easily identify with each other online. Homegrown isn’t the first one N.C. State has tried, but it’s possibly the most accurate.
It’s been documented how well Dave Doeren and his staff have done recruiting the state of North Carolina. The commitment by Harris – and one earlier in the day from Southern Nash running back Zonovan Knight – gave Doeren 13 in-state commitments in the class of 2019. Harris was definitely one of the most sought after; ranked the 10th best player in the State and the No. 16 defensive tackle in the nation.
Earlier in the day, Knight posted on his twitter account his plans to play for the Wolfpack, with the hashtag #Homegrown in the message. Like most of the class of 2019, Harris could have gone almost anywhere, but felt the most comfortable playing 53 miles away from Roxboro, the town of 8,362 that sits between Durham and the Virginia border.
“It wasn’t the tipping point, but it does have an influence, it does have a factor,” Person head coach David Kleine said. “At the end of the day, N.C. State is roughly 50 miles away from his home. The program is one the rise, seven draft picks in this past NFL Draft, and they’ve put together a couple of real good seasons now under Coach Doeren.”
Two of those drafts picks who play the same position as Harris - Justin Jones and B.J. Hill - played a role in his recruitment while they were still at N.C. State. Harris said those two constantly reached out to him, and he could envision himself one day filling their shoes on the Wolfpack defensive line. It also helped that they each heard their names called during the NFL Draft.
“Definitely,” Harris said with a smile when asked if that played a part in his decision to pick the Pack. “The defensive line coach (Kevin Patrick) is amazing.”
He can also envision a defensive line that includes Clayton defensive end Savion Jackson and New London defensive tackle CJ Clark, having the same kind of success as the Wolfpack unit that recently departed.
“Me, Savion, C.J., I feel like we are a different breed,” Harris said. “We’re staying home and playing on the same team, we can be the next B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Bradley Chubb, we can be the next generation.”
A different breed would be a perfect way to describe Harris, who can squat nearly 600 pounds and bench more than 400, but also taught himself how to play the piano and plans to start an outreach program when he’s done with football.
“He’s done a lot of great things,” Kleine said. “This is a young man who is already thinking about life after football.”