3rd comeback a charm for J-Shun Harris

There were moments last fall when J-Shun Harris wondered if it was worth it, if days like this one would come again.

Three ACL tears in as many years will do that.

But Saturday felt like a party for Harris, a joyous occasion 11 months in the making.

The IU senior returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown during the first half of Saturday’s 38-10 Indiana victory over Ball State, authoring the next chapter in his remarkable comeback tale.

“It feels awesome,” Harris said. “But with all the work I’ve put in and having all the support I’ve had from my coaches, family, everyone, we’re not surprised. Everyone can have the narrative of three ACL (tears) — why’s he still playing? We don’t abide by anyone else’s limitations.”

Even his teammates are in awe.

“After three ACLs, to go out and do that is just incredible,” IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey said. “I don’t know how he goes out and does the things he does.”

Of course, just as Indiana coach Tom Allen wondered if Harris would attempt a third comeback last offseason, Harris did, too.

But after a conversation with former IU athletic trainer Collin Francis, Harris was eager to give this program his last best shot. Saturday proved his effort and rehab work was worth it. With his 86-yard return, Harris tied Tim Wilbur’s program record on the third touchdown return of his career.

The 86-yarder is tied for seventh-longest in program history.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the young man,” Allen said. “I said it from the beginning that his attitude was unbelievable. When he found out he had his third tear, I just assumed it was over. There comes a point in time that you’re like, ‘Hey, you know what? I’ve done this. It’s been great. I need to move on.’ But, no, he’s never flinched and he worked himself back.”

Entering the summer, Allen wasn’t sure when Harris would be full-go for a return. He originally targeted next week’s game vs. Michigan State as the most likely scenario, but Harris proved to be ahead of schedule by the start of fall camp.

Last month, Harris looked the part of a special weapon during IU’s practices, earning his way back onto the field through his work and relentlessness.

By the end of fall camp, Harris was ready to remove his knee brace. That boosted his confidence, adding the final piece to an inspiring equation.

“He’s one of the best in the country at what he does, and he deserves everything that he gets,” Allen said. “I’m so proud of him.”


  1. Harris sure proved I didn’t know what I was thinking. To be able to get back to where he is and the number of times he has done it is an amazing college football story.

  2. They have come so far with that procedure.

    Forty years ago, maybe less, there was no such thing as an ACL repair.

  3. It is good to see Harris return another punt for a TD. What he has gone through to play once again is a testament to his determination and courage. He gives IU a weapon to use every time they have to punt the ball. I hope he makes it through this season healthy and helps IU win many more games.

  4. I watched today’s game at a Sports Bar surrounded by a lot of people. I had tears streaming down my cheeks when Harris crossed the goal line, and I didn’t give a rip if anyone saw me or not. I could only imagine the emotions his loved ones must have felt at that moment. That was beautiful to see, and a moment of pure joy. I can only imagine the mental toughness and intestinal fortitude that was required of this young man to come back from those three injuries. It is truly inspiring. And if Harris never does anything else again on a football field, it does not matter, because today he proved he is a champion.

    If it doesn’t already exist, the Big Ten Conference should create an honor for players that demonstrate unusual courage and perseverance in returning from an injury, and they should name it the J-Shun Harris Award.

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