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Javon Harris Q&A
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Sooner safety talks about football, school, life and more
Javon Harris still has some learning to do. No one knows that better than Javon Harris.
As the 2011 football season rolls into full gear, OU’s talented junior free safety is soaking up every ounce of knowledge from his on-the-job training experience. Harris is one of the few first-year starters on a team otherwise stacked with veterans.
And while there have been a handful of snaps where Harris’ overall inexperience has been a factor, his speed, strength and playmaking ability have kept him at the top of the depth chart and continue to make OU fans believe the best is yet to come.
A national television audience got a good look at Harris’ ability when the top-ranked Sooners defeated No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee on Sept. 17. Harris’ two interceptions — including one late in the game that helped seal the win — helped the OU defense limit the Seminoles to 13 points and only 246 total yards.
Sooner Spectator sat down with Harris after practice recently to get his take on what lies ahead for him and the Sooners.
Sooner Spectator: Since arriving at OU in 2009, you have put on 16 pounds to get to a more desirable playing weight. What has been the key to adding that bulk and not losing any speed in the process?
Javon Harris: Honestly, I’ve just taken my time in the weight room much more seriously than I used to. With me being a hitter, I felt like I needed that weight to help bulk up and be stronger. I think this summer was my best effort as far as really focusing on what I needed to do to be a better player. I asked myself, ‘How good a player do I want to be?’ And part of the answer was in how I prepared myself.
SS: Did your diet change at all to help you get there?
Harris: Well, I did stop eating so much fast food. I definitely focused on eating a lot more foods that are actually healthy for me. I may still eat McDonald’s every once in a while, but for the most part, I’m much more aware of what I eat these days.
SS: What sort of goals did you have for yourself going into the 2011 season?
Harris: Most of all, I wanted to get out there and prove to my coaches and teammates that I can be a difference-maker at my position. It’s something I’m still working on, and I know it will take some time. You have to work hard and be patient. I have some personal goals for interceptions and stuff like that, but my main focus is on what we are doing as a team.
SS: How close is OU’s current group of defensive backs, especially considering how hard you guys are all competing against each other for the same jobs and playing time?
Harris: Truthfully, we are a very tight-knit group. We compete on the field and pull for each other to do good, and we are all pretty close off the field. When you are on the same team and you’re playing the same position, especially like the secondary, we all realize we have to stick together through thick and thin. As a player, you respect the game. You have to count on the coaches playing the best players. We all know that, so we all try to make each other better.
SS: You had never played safety prior to coming to college. What has been the biggest key to you learning the position and feeling comfortable there?
Harris: I think coming in a semester early like I did helped get me a head start on learning the position and learning more about the system OU runs. It’s been a process that takes time, and I’m still learning to play the position with every game and every practice. I’m still learning how to read offenses and anticipate different things. Basically, just working hard with my coaches and teammates has been the biggest key for me to this point.
SS: At what point in the recruiting process did you know you were going to be playing defensive back at the college level instead of running back?
Harris: Honestly, I always thought I was going to be a running back in college. But at a camp one time when I was a little younger, they told me I had the body to play safety. I didn’t really think about it then but when schools started recruiting me, I pretty much knew then I was going to be playing safety in college.
SS: Do you miss playing offense?
Harris: Most definitely. I miss it a lot. If they ever need me to step over and take a few carries at running back, I’ll be happy to do that. Even though I do miss it, my job is on defense now, and it lets me be a head-hunter. That’s my focus, and I want to continue to work hard to be the best defensive player I can be.
SS: What has been your most memorable moment so far at Oklahoma?
Harris: Before the Florida State, there were probably two of them — the blocked punt I had in the Colorado game (Oct. 30, 2010) and coming in for Jonathan Nelson against Oklahoma State and having a good showing (8 tackles) in that game. But now, I’d have to say the Florida State game. Playing in this atmosphere in a game like this and to get two picks, man, that’s unbelievable. I feel blessed — definitely something I’m going to remember.
SS: Do you have any superstitions or pre-game routines to help get you ready on game days?
Harris: Not really, but I do listen to music. Slow music. It helps calm my nerves and gets me focused on what I need to do. It’s mostly old-school stuff like R. Kelly, but I used to listen to stuff like James Brown and also the Temptations and stuff like that.
SS: Was OU always your first choice during the recruiting process?
Harris: Actually, OU was not my first choice early on. I had a few schools I was looking at and my favorite school growing up was always Texas, along with Miami (Fla.). Those are the two places I wanted to go originally, but Miami was the only one that offered me, and by that time, Oklahoma had already established itself with me by offering a scholarship. Once OU got involved, I felt they offered me the best place to go play and contribute.
SS: Growing up a Longhorn fan, what has it been like to be on the opposite side of the OU-Texas rivalry as a player?
Harris: It’s been great. Crazy. Electrifying. I went down to Dallas my freshman year but didn’t get to play in the game. But it’s hard to forget the atmosphere that first time and how extreme it was. Last year, I got to play in the actual game, and it was a wild experience with the intensity and pressure. It was a blessing just to be a part of that. And winning that game in the Cotton Bowl was pretty special.
SS: You are a communications major. If you end up doing something other than football after college, what would you like it to be?
Harris: This past summer, I did an internship for the Northwestern Mutual financial network, and I really think that’s something I’d like to do maybe — be a financial advisor.
SS: Did you grow up playing any other sports?
Harris: Yes, I played football, basketball and baseball pretty much all my life, and my junior year, I ran track. I played all three of those since I was in second grade and never really got away from it until I got to OU and started to focus on just one sport.
SS: If you weren’t playing college football, what sport could you see yourself playing instead?
Harris: Probably baseball. I had a lot of people tell me if I had really stuck with baseball, I might have been drafted. But I love the sport of football so much, I kind of always felt this is what I wanted to play for as long as I can.
(Editor's Note: This Q&A appears in the Sept. 27,2011 issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)