There are high expectations for Najee Harris, who is entering his freshman year at Alabama. The 19-year-old running back was considered the top recruit from the class of 2017 and earned attention from several of the major college programs before he even graduated. He verbally committed to Alabama in 2015 when he was only a junior at Antioch High School in Antioch, California.
Harris was born in Martinez, California, a city in the Easy Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow Harris on Instagram.
Here’s what you need to know about the 6-foot-2½, 226-pound Harris.
1. 25 Schools Reportedly Made Offers to Harris Before He Chose Alabama
Harris was considered a top recruit even before his senior year in high school. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that he received offers from 25 colleges and universities: Alabama, Arizona, BYU, Cal, Colorado State, Georgia, Hawaii, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, San Jose State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Washington and Washington State. He visited several of these schools and attended camps to show off his skills. He was at The Opening at Nike headquarters last year.
Coaches also came to him. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Cal’s Sonny Dykes visited him. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh made two visits to Antioch High.
“He’s dope,” Harris told the Chronicle of Harbaugh. “Everybody thinks he’s weird, but he’s not weird. I like him a lot. He’s a funny dude. He’s cool.”
But it was all for naught, since AL.com reported back in April 2015 that Harris already verbally committed to Alabama and he followed through.
2. Harris Grew Up in a Rough Home With a Single Mom & A Gunshot Victim Once Fell at Their Door
Harris has had a difficult time at home. As The San Francisco Chronicle notes, his mother, Tianna Hicks, tried her best to have a successful relationship with the father of her children, but it didn’t work out. They moved around a lot, living in the Bay Area and Seattle and were even homeless at some point. They moved to Antioch in summer 2013.
However, Harris’ father continued to struggle with drugs and alcohol. He left and returned to Seattle.
Hicks moved her family to Antioch because of the cheap rents, only to find out later how dangerous it was. One day, she found bullet holes in her garage. One night, Harris saw 30 people fighting out their door.
They eventually moved to another apartment. But one night, a shooting victim fell to the ground at their doorstep. Detectives arrived at the scene.
“At that point, it didn’t really scare me because you hear gunshots over and over again,” Harris recalled. “But it was the first time I saw somebody hit the ground. We were like, ‘Just another day in the hood.’”
Harris told the Chronicle that crime is down in the area and his family still lives there.
“Our neighborhood is not good,” his mother told the Chronicle. “I worry about him walking after dark. That scares me. I’m scared of my neighborhood.”
3. Harris Didn’t Kneel During the National Anthem in High School, but Said He Supports Colin Kaepernick
In his 2016 San Francisco Chronicle profile, Harris said he understands what Colin Kaepernick’s protests, but he didn’t think he was at the level of notoriety where he could kneel during the National Anthem.
“I’m not ready for that yet,” Harris said in 2016. “I’m trying to shy away from the attention for now. They’d be asking me everywhere … but I support Kaepernick.”
Harris does have firsthand experience with the issue Kaepernick tried to bring more attention to when he took a knee during the anthem though.
“It makes you think, ‘Damn, it could happen to anybody,’” he said of the police shootings of African American men. “I don’t drive, but my brothers do. They could get pulled over anytime, so it just makes you think someone has got to do something.”
4. Harris Is Competing With 4 Other Running Backs for Playing Time
As Saturday Down South notes, Alabama is stacked at running back, with Bo Scarborough, Damien Harris, Brian Robinson and Josh Jacobs all competing for opportunities to play. However during practices, Harris displayed a good pass-catching abilities which could help him get time on the field.
That competition has made them all better though, Scarborough, a junior, told AL.com.
“I mean, it’s about helping each other out, showing them the ropes and learning from each other,” Scarbrough said. “Even though we’re the oldest guy, there’s something we can take from the younger guys and we can put it into our perspective. That’s how you make creation.”
Robinson is also a freshman and has impressed veterans on the team.
“Even in the spring [Robinson] just kind of stood out. We were doing team run and he was just, like, running really hard,” redshirt junior guard Ross Pierschbacher told BamaOnLine. “As an offensive lineman you love to see that. He doesn’t shy away from contact, and I’ve continued to see that. He runs angry, so it’s nice.”
5. Head Coach Nick Saban Says Harris Will Make a ‘Significant Contribution’ in His Freshman Season
With all the expectations on Harris’ shoulders, his fans would hope that he’d get playing time in his rookie season. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said in August that he predicts Harris will make a major impact on the team.
“I don’t think there’s any question of the fact that he’s done an outstanding job in his development here through spring practice and also fall camp,” Saban said of Harris.
Saban added that Harris could play in the season-opener against FSU.
“Right now, he is going to have an opportunity to play in this game, and I think he’ll make a significant contribution to our team throughout the season. We’re very excited that he’s here and sort of trying to encourage his development in every way that we can so that he can be a very positive performer for us.”