MARRERO, La. — The stereotypical high school football star is the life of every party, sometimes even stepping over the line and getting into trouble because of his own perceived invincibility.
So what about De’jon Harris, the Arkansas signee and two-way — and that’s excluding the kicking and punting he did — superstar who carried John Ehret High School to its first state championship game in more than a generation?
“If somebody was going to a party,” recalled John Ehret safety Darius Campbell, “he would call and remind them to be safe. Then, he’d text and call to make sure people had a ride home.
“He was just a leader in everything.”
Harris, who recently reported to Fayetteville, Ark., to begin summer classes and workouts, definitely was a leader on the field. During his senior season last fall, John Ehret’s quarterback went down with a season-ending injury early in the season.
Eventually, in Week 6, John Ehret coach Corey Lambert asked Harris, his star linebacker, to take over the offense and play a role he hadn’t played since junior high.
“It took off from there,” said assistant coach Bryan Crayton. “He got the offense going, but it wasn’t just about his play. It was also his leadership.”
Harris rushed for 1,058 yards and 16 touchdowns, passed for 495 yards and three more scores and led John Ehret to its first state championship game appearance since 1985.
Throughout his four-year high school career, Harris wore several different hats. Linebacker, running back, quarterback, kicker, punter and deep snapper, just to name a few.
“He may have called some plays, and he may have driven the bus, too,” Crayton joked.
But Crayton’s relationship with Harris goes far beyond football. Crayton began dating Harris’ sister more than 15 years ago and is now Harris’ brother-in-law.
Crayton was around when Harris was just a toddler, back when Harris’ mom gave him the nickname — “Scoota” — that has stuck to this day.
“My mom said when I was younger that right before I started walking, I just scooted around everywhere,” Harris said.
As Harris grew up, Crayton said he watched with amazement how “Scoota” managed to stay out of any major trouble as he became a star athlete and big-time college football recruit.
“Being from the area that we’re from, his life could have easily went a different way,” Crayton said. “He could have easily gotten sucked down the wrong path. He could have easily followed the wrong crew. He could have easily been a troublemaker.”
Instead, Harris became a role model for his John Ehret teammates. He took time to get to know them, even the underclassmen like fellow linebacker Anthony Hamilton, who is heading into his junior season.
“He was like my older brother on the field,” Hamilton said. “He hung out with underclassmen. He tried to build leadership with us too and let us know what kind of person he is.
“Some people may have seen him as a star of the team, but we just saw him as our brother.”