Harris feeling as confident as ever

J-Shun Harris called his shot.

Standing on the sideline late in the fourth quarter of Indiana’s 34-17 win at Virginia on Sept. 9, the Hoosiers’ punt returner predicted he would score the next time he touched the ball on special teams duty.

Harris knew what he was doing.

Cavaliers punter Lester Coleman outkicked his coverage on his final punt of the day, allowing Harris to receive the ball and race 44 yards — virtually untouched — to the end zone and cap IU’s scoring.

“I was like, ‘Yo, I feel like this will be a touchdown right here,’” Harris said. “Thankfully, it all worked out.”

After losing two seasons due to ACL tears, first to his right knee in 2015, then to his left knee last summer, Harris is back.

And he’s as confident as ever.

It took time to regain that confidence after those back-to-back knee injuries set back a promising young career. There were difficult days immediately after both of his surgeries, but Harris never wavered.

He was determined to return to the field, endearing himself to his coaches and teammates with his refusal to let serious injuries break his will.

“I’m rolling now,” Harris said with a smile this week. “At practice, I’m talking a lot more, just joking around a lot more. I feel like my old self again. Definitely getting into the end zone and seeing that I was able to be back and make some plays definitely helped me mentally.”

As nice as it was to stand in the end zone that afternoon at Scott Stadium, scoring his first touchdown since recording two receiving scores as a freshman in 2014, Harris admits it was a long forgotten feeling.

At least momentarily.

“I was a little surprised,” Harris said. “It was like, ‘Hold on, this feels kind of weird.’ But just everyone slapping me in the head brought be back to reality and once I got to the sideline, I was just very thankful for being able to get back out there and having those guys block and make it perfect and easy to get in the end zone.”

Harris spent the better part of the final three quarters trying to atone for an earlier mistake.

Early in the second quarter, he made a mental error and elected to fair catch a ball on Indiana’s 2-yard line.

“I just didn’t know where I was at,” Harris said. “I can’t make those mistakes, but happy that Coach (Tom) Allen decided to stick with me. When I went out there the (next) time, I was a little mad at myself, of course, so that made me want to do as much as I could.”
Harris followed through.

On his next punt return opportunity midway through the period, he returned the ball 43 yards to set up IU at the Virginia 27. Five plays later, Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey took off on a 26-yard touchdown run that put the Hoosiers ahead 14-3.

“Just so proud of him,” Allen said. “He’s just such a fine young man that we’ve all be pulling for to come back. He’s never hung his head.”

Allen hardly saw Harris at full speed prior to last month’s fall camp. Allen joined IU’s coaching staff in January 2016, while Harris was still working his way back from his first knee operation. The redshirt junior from Fishers suffered his second knee injury later that summer.

However, Allen did see all the work Harris put in to get back.

What sticks with the IU coach is Harris’ positive outlook in doing so.

“He has a great perspective on life,” Allen said. “He’s strong in his faith, which is a huge anchor for him. He sees the big picture and was able to come back from it. Our whole team was so thrilled to see him have a great game against Virginia.

“… He’s a great testament to having a tremendous attitude, working through adversity, being tough. Everything we want in our program, he’s just got it. He’s got grit and he’s got an edge about him and a personality that allows him to persevere and overcome obstacles in life. He’s gonna be very successful in whatever he does.”

Right now, Harris is catching passes as a backup slot receiver and returning punts for the Hoosiers.

He’s also calling his shots.

“I guess every time I go out there, I have to tell myself it’s going to be a touchdown,” Harris said. “Hopefully it pans out that way.”

One comment

  1. It is great to have Harris back and back to his previous capability after two long years. I hope he continues his exciting play and we start to see that on the offense.

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