Arlen Harris Jr. finished his freshman season at Lutheran High School in St. Peters, Missouri. His father, Arlen Harris Sr. played in the NFL for four seasons with the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions from 2003-2006.
Harris Jr. recognizes the impact that he has had on his game and wants to succeed behind his own hard work and dedication. Coached by Arlen Harris Sr., the Lutheran Cougars finished the 2018 season with an 8-3 (2-1 AAA Division) record. Harris Jr. had 1,280 total yards, 22 touchdowns and averaged 10.1 yards per carry last season. Check out his freshman season highlights.
Coach Harris discussed putting on the two hats of coach and dad when it comes to his son.
“Truthfully, I take pride in separating the two. It’s important that I don’t cripple him moving forward by blurring the lines. Also, I got other players that I’m accountable for. I know there will always be the whispers because of his success but I’ve been where he’s trying to go,” he said. “I honestly think he’s going to eclipse what I’ve accomplished in my career. So I’m dad once we leave the facility because I want to be able to enjoy his journey too.”
The elder Harris has seen Harris Jr.’s growth take another step forward moving into his sophomore campaign. He believes Arlen Harris Jr. is mature for his age and to see his development both physically and mentally will be scary if he keeps the same pace each year. No ceiling in the picture right now.
“There isn’t one person walking this earth harder on AJ, then AJ. I think he thrives through adversity,” he added.
The 5’11, 185 pound, sophomore running back, and St. Peters native started playing football at a young age despite his dad being unsure about him playing football at all. He loved the game from day one.
“What motivates me is first [and foremost], the vision to glorify God with all He has given me. I know that God has given me a gift to touch the world and show His glory through me. I also do it to one day provide for my family and be one of the greatest to ever do it,” Harris Jr. said.
Faith plays a major role in his life because with all the trials and tribulations he goes through, he’s able to overcome with God by his side. His religion provides him comfort and the absence of fear for his family and problems in his life.
“The toughest thing that I’ve ever had to overcome is knowing that I’m not perfect and it’s okay to fail. I’ve always been a perfectionist. I always wanted to do everything right and perfect. But I had to learn that you can’t progress and get better if you don’t fail. So it took a lot of mental strengthening to get there.”
Going into his sophomore year, Arlen Harris Jr. has received a host of offers from Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State, Ball State, LSU, Kansas, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Vanderbilt.
He realized that he could play football and be good at it at a young age. He said that he was average when he first got out there. He learned that if he wanted to be one of the greatest, He had to do things differently. Have a different mindset and a stronger work ethic.
“Work ethic is second to none. Sometimes I have to tell him to rest and not burn himself out. The same approach he takes to the field is what you will see in the classroom as well. He wants to see other people succeed so I’ve seen him take time out of his schedule to help others when it’s not convenient,” Coach Harris said.
Arlen Harris Jr. will be interested in studying animal science or business in college. He loves to fish and learn about sports cars.
Looking at Arlen Harris Jr. on film, he has good ball carrier vision, speed and elusiveness as a running back and on special teams as a kick and punt returner. He gets in between the tackles and burst through holes with ease and his elusiveness takes over from there.
“I feel, as a running back, I am most effective inside of the tackles. I know how to pre-snap read and analyze before a play. I know how the play is designed so I know to be patient. When I get through in my mind, I know I have to get my shoulders low and no matter what, make someone miss.”
He feels the best part of his game is his vision and football IQ. When he has the ball in his hands knowing where to go is natural, but he said that he can always improve that aspect of his game. When there is nowhere to go, he knows how to break down a defender and attack their weak points.
Moving on from bad plays and not getting inside his own head is what he said he needs to work on to be a complete football player. Also, studying the playbook more to better understand the ins and outs of offensive plays and formations.
“My mentality on the field is to glorify God with my talents, play for my team, not me, and just go have fun. The rest will come with it.”
As a sophomore, he wants to rush for 2,000 yards, get 500 yards receiving and score over 30 touchdowns. Also, receive all-state running back honors.
Porter Medium: Is there anyone who had a special impact on you growing up and why?
Harris Jr: “The person who always had a big impact on me growing up was my father. My father was everything I wanted to be and more. My dad teaches me so many lessons through what I do because if anyone understands it’s him. My dad taught me that it’s ok to be different and take pride in it. I was raised different and I’m built differently. So my dad has always just been a role model through everything even outside of football.”
Porter Medium: With your dad having played at the highest levels of the sport, how does that help your game? What advice has he given you?
Harris Jr: “Having a father that’s been at the highest level has helped crucially. My dad shows me how to mentally see the game in my position in an elite way. [He] shows me how to be a running back at a high level. My dad gives [me] the advice of learning to be a complete back. All my life, I’ve been taught that you have to be able to be used in all ways. Not just running the ball, that’s expected. He shows me that you have to know how to block, have elite vision, catch and a lot more.”
Porter Medium: What things did you learn in your freshman season as a Lutheran Cougar?
Harris Jr: “I learned as a freshman that it’s okay to be a young leader. At the same time, it’s not your duty to be. You can lead in so many different ways. You don’t have to be vocal and loud. You can lead by example. I also learned that when you get to high school you have to be mentally strong because it’s a different animal. You go from practicing three or four times a week to every day. You have to build a mental shell. You have to step up and push yourself because it’s only going to get worse. But that’s just the beauty of the grind.”
Porter Medium: Do you have any NFL running backs you model your game after?
Harris Jr: “Besides my father, I would say Eric Dickerson. After watching him run, I realized we have a similar type of running style and body build. Eric wasn’t that big, but he was taller than most. Eric wasn’t a person who made multiple cuts he would make one and go. If he had to [make multiple cuts], he would. I feel that’s how I am, and we aren’t afraid of contact.”