Harris ready for return after 3rd ACL injury

The video clip has nearly 700 views on YouTube, several of which surely belong to J-Shun Harris, himself.

The highlight of his punt return touchdown during Indiana’s win over Georgia Southern last September gives Harris hope, confidence and the will to keep going. So he clicks on it often. His mother does, too.

Two weeks ago, during a trip to his family home in Fishers, Harris’ mother and biggest fan, Stephanie Peterson, pulled up the clip and the family watched together as Harris darted past blockers, eluding would-be tacklers on that 70-yard score.

“I continue to watch it,” Harris said. … “(I’m) continuing to give myself that affirmation that I’ve been through it before and I can go out there and do it again.”

Recovering from one ACL injury is tough. Recovering from a second is difficult, too.

Recovering from three? It’s almost unfathomable.

But Harris is determined to leave college football on his own terms, eager to return to the field and help Indiana win games in 2018.

“It’s something about the sport,” Harris said about why he’s trying to return from his third ACL injury in as many years. “I was blessed with the opportunity to play here on a full ride. Just being a part of this atmosphere, it’s hard to get rid of. It was a no-brainer. My family gets to watch me play again. If I can sacrifice that now to be a shining light for someone who’s been through it and for them to know that they can go through it and progress through it if they keep the right mindset, then I get the joy out of that.”

The senior receiver and return man estimates he’s 90-to-100 percent through his rehab process, and expects he’ll be full-go for Indiana’s fall camp in August.

Not only would Harris’ return be a boost to IU’s special teams, in particular, it would be a tribute to the toughness of a player who has refused to back down.

An ACL injury suffered during the summer prior to his sophomore year cost him one full season. A second tear during preseason camp in 2016 cost him another.

Last fall, Harris returned to the field for the first time since earning Big Ten all-freshman honors in 2014, leading the Big Ten with two punt return scores.

But Harris’ season went sideways in game eight at Maryland, at which point he also led the conference with 19.0 yards per punt return.

“We had gotten a safety on Maryland and when I caught the ball, I just took a normal step to go forward,” Harris said. “I kind of felt a little lag and as I was walking back to the sideline, it was popping a little bit. Kyle (Blackman), our head trainer, he told me to do some cutting drills. I did cutting drills, no problem. They brought the knee brace out and over time, it just kind of felt weak. Then I tried to cut one more time and I felt like it was something weird.”

At the same time, it was something Harris knew all too well.

“It’s almost like deja vu, to be honest,” Harris said. “Hopefully, it’s the end, but the past couple years it’s seemed like a dream that keeps happening. The first one is always the toughest and, thankfully, I’ve had a strong enough support system to help me out throughout the process.”

Harris wasn’t cleared to participate in this year’s spring practice. Instead, he stood on the sidelines and encouraged his teammates.

With fall camp on the horizon, Harris can see his path back to the field.

He’s able to do everything with his teammates in the weight room, including squats and power cleans. During on-the-field workouts, Harris is able to join fellow Hoosiers for individual activities.

In a few weeks, he expects to back in pads, ready to give football one more go.

“That’s my goal,” Harris said. “As of now, the way everything is progressing, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

6 comments

  1. I’m definetely routing for the kid he’s got some of the worst luck its a shame his body has betrayed him he could’ve had a nfl future as a returner he may still have a small chance if he can get through this year in one piece

  2. J-Shun football carreer in college is an mazing story into the determination and toughness of a young man. I hope he put a great finish to his story as he is an inspiration to many especially those going through their own ACL recoveries.

    He is an outstanding player when healthy and I hope he is healthy all of the 2019 season.

    1. V13
      You have commented much about the potential of the new IU FB S&C program. Do you see possibilities of the S&C program helping to avoid some of these type injuries in the future? Football is still going to have its share of injuries, but some are avoidable, can the S&C program help?

  3. At past stops of Coach Ballou and Dr Rhea the injuries have declined noticeably. Their focus on balanced muscle strength and power should help reduce injuries as most hamstring pulls and other muscular pulls are due to one muscle group stronger than others. The idea is more balanced muscle strength will also reduce joint injuries. I know when I added a sand pit, I got it from an assistant coach who saw UW’s track program, to improve speed but I found it eliminated virtually all leg injuries on my teams. The sand pit works the muscle in a way that strengthens each muscle group equally. The S&C staff are using specific workouts, measurements to focus on which muscle groups need more work, and drills that require muscle groups to work together which should show the same improvements I saw with my teams.

    Only the coming year will show how effective this S&C program is but what I have seen it has a great chance of reducing injuries. Most teams focus on flexibility to reduce injuries but that does nothing to address measured differences in muscle group strength.

  4. It will be a huge victory if this outstanding young man makes it through the entire season. I’d make him ware a blue jersey in every practice and prohibit him from participating in any full contact drills. Everyone knows how tough he is, the team needs his skills, and as a senior he’s long-since proven himself. He does not need participate in any contact drills, so he should be protected.

  5. The worst thing to do would be to keep him completely away from contact participation in practices. This would only contribute to an overly careful and cautious mentality and exaggerated consciousness/fears of re-injury.

    Wish him the best…I think of a guy like Mo Creek who also had tons of promise…and then came the knee displacements. Very sad that we couldn’t keep Mo Creek on a Hoosier team until his graduation. Guess he wasn’t worth the effort or patience. And though he had his moments on George Washington after transferring, he deserved all the faith and loyalty that Allen is now giving Harris. Mo Creek was also a warrior…though a conveniently forgotten one.

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