When Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder floated a ball into the end zone with seconds left in the season opener, Hurricane sophomore Brandon Harris forced himself to relax. After committing a pass interference penalty that resulted in a Seminole first down on the previous play, the cornerback displayed the maturity and skill that earned him his first career ACC Defensive Back of the Week award.
“I knew there was still time on the clock and an opportunity to make a great play,” Harris said. “I wasn’t going to let the last play affect this one.”
Harris lept and broke up the pass, and, in the process, helped guide the Hurricanes to a 38-34 upset of the No. 19 FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium. Even after leading the team with a career-high nine tackles, Harris focused his thoughts on getting better.
“I played well, but there’s room for improvement,” Harris said. ”Our secondary wants to be the best in the country.”
After his selection to the All-ACC Academic football team in his first season, Harris focused his off season on becoming stronger and faster. Working with strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey helped Harris achieve his goal.
“I wanted to become a more physical corner. I got in the weight room and bulked up,” Harris said. “Coach Swasey and I came up with a plan that would make me stronger and a better tackler.”
Like many other Hurricane football players, Harris joined the track team to improve his quickness and what he describes as “burst to the ball.” Working with his brother Tim Harris, a legendary Hurricane track star and three-time All-American, also helped the younger Harris improve.
“He is very important in my development,” Harris said of his brother, who graduated in 2008. “Even though we are in two different sports, we both know the pressure of being a college athlete. He keeps me relaxed and keeps me humble.”
Playing “relaxed football” was a key focus for Harris in preparation for the new season. After a stellar high school career at nearby Booker T. Washington High School and the countless awards that followed, Harris became a key member of the renowned 2008 recruiting class. His father and head coach at Booker T., Tim Harris Sr., followed his son to UM and is now in his second season as assistant to the head coach.
After all the accolades, however, Harris endured a somewhat disappointing first season in Coral Gables. Harris said his memorably lackluster freshman performance against Florida State was on his mind, but not his main motivation.
“My teammates have been telling me not to put pressure on myself to get revenge, but just to go out there and play my game. That was my main point, to just play relaxed football.”
The Labor Day performance from the sophomore cornerback earned praise from head coach Randy Shannon.
“He’s a guy who has a lot of confidence in himself. One thing about Brandon, he never thinks back about what he’s done in the past,” Shannon said. “When you see him come in and respond to plays that got him earlier in the game, you get excited about it.”
Camron Ghorbi may be contacted at email@example.com