In the aftermath, all Jalen Harris suffered was a scratch on his leg and some nightmares — but it could’ve been drastically worse.
The Auburn tight end, headed northbound from Montgomery, Ala., to Auburn, Ala., on I-85 after church last October, had his life flash before his eyes. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Harris approached an out-of-control van in the southbound lane that ultimately collided with Harris’ SUV.
The crash forced Harris off the road, flipping the vehicle four times into a ditch and leaving his car mangled, glass shattered and Harris — understandably — shaken.
“It was a pretty scary deal. I’ve never been in anything like that,” Harris said. “I really thought I wasn’t going to walk away from that. It’s just a blessing to be here and playing for Auburn right now.”
Aside from a “scratch” on his leg, he said he didn’t suffer any other injuries. His seatbelt did its job, and more or less, Harris managed to return to campus physically OK. But he was mentally drained over a moment where he really thought he “wasn’t going to make it.”
He needed a week off, and coaches obliged.
“I think that God has a plan for everybody, and the car accident, it was a little traumatizing for me at first,” Harris said. “When I got back to campus, I just kept thinking about it for a little while. (Coaches) gave me about a week off, which really helped me to go back home and not have to worry about anything.”
Until that point, Harris hadn’t seen much offensive playing time. That trend continued throughout the remainder of the 2015 season.
Harris doesn’t use the accident as an excuse, however, regarding his role on the football field.
“I think that, even if the car accident hadn’t happened, I’d still be in the same position I am right now,” Harris said. “They’re just doing their best they can to prepare me for the first game.”
It’s changed the sophomore tight end’s approach on a daily basis. He says he doesn’t “take anything for granted” and plays every snap at “110 percent.”
Unsure where he fits into the tight end depth chart, Harris is one of several players working in the H-back role to back up sophomore Chandler Cox, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Thursday. Harris said he doesn’t prefer tight end to H-back, or vice versa.
“I’ll do whatever. I’m just trying to help the team out,” Harris said. “They need me at H-back, I’ll do that. They need me at tight end, I’ll do that as well.”