4,271,520 Yards

The story of how a local teen is chasing his dreams

Patricia Caputo, Writer

At the age of six William Harris joined his first football team through the Neptune Youth Football and Cheerleading Organization. “Growing up as a kid my older brother played football, and I remember going to his games, feeling the intensity, and goosebumps the crowd gave me when someone got a big hit or big run, “ said Harris. “It’s just an unreal feeling, and I could not wait to sign up in the summer to play football with my friends”. 

From that point on, Harris’s life revolved around the game. He has never missed a practice since he started in Kindergarten. Even when he was too sick to go to school, he always made sure he showed up for practice. He was not aware where his hard work and God-given talent could take him until eighth grade at a championship game in Florida. “There was a kid everyone just kept talking about. Everyone was like ‘Yeah, he just got offered.’” In that moment he learned he could go to school for free, simply by doing what he loves: playing football.  

As a young child Harris faced several hardships which taught him perseverance. At six years old his father passed away after experiencing sudden heart failure. Harris was so young he says he had trouble remembering the feeling he had when it happened. For him the loss of his father just became normal. At seven years old his mother met his step-father. He referred to his step-father as the “only positive male role-model in my life.” Living in a town surrounded by drug use, he respected that his step-father was able to provide for his family without doing or selling drugs. Then, before entering his freshman year of high school the family decided to make a drastic change. They moved from New Jersey to Maryland because his mother “figured it was the best place to be.” 

The Linebacker learned to navigate his way through a new town, school, and football team. Until his senior year of high school when he decided to come back home. When asked why he left Maryland he said, “It’s just not New Jersey…You don’t feel at home.” Summer of his Senior year he set personal goals to accomplish before his high school journey was over: win homecoming king, attend the Neptune parade as a football player, and earn a Neptune varsity jacket. Before Harris could try to live out these goals he was told he could not participate with the Neptune football team for 30 days. The state of New Jersey requires all athletes who transfer to a new school to sit for 30 days from the start of the regular season. According to the Press Atlantic City, athletes who transfer due to a “bonafide” or genuine change can play immediately. Although his aunt went to court to gain full custody of him the summer prior, the rule was not lifted due to rumors that Neptune’s head football coach Tarig Holeman recruited Harris… illegally.

When asked how he felt when he got the news just two weeks before their first game he said “I cried, but I couldn’t let my team see it. I was still that joyful teammate.” After Harris sat his 30 days he came back and led Neptune to the playoffs with a 7-4 record. This was something new for a team who had been below average for all of his high school career. Harris does not take credit for the wins but says he was “the gel that kept people together”. With many of Will’s original teammates transferring throughout their high school career, Neptune’s 2019-2020 football team was made up of his neighborhood friends who had never played organized sports. “When I came I had to show them the dedication that they needed.” 

Harris helped take his team to the playoffs, won homecoming king, and got a varsity jacket in one year, but it was time for the big question: What after high school? He was being looked at by Monmouth University, University of New Haven, and Lincoln University. He hoped to prove to these schools why he deserves an offer during combines at East Strasburg, and Syracuse, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the schools were forced to cancel their combines. During the pandemic Harris became out of shape, and gained 15 pounds. Once New Jersey announced school would be virtual for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year he decided to move back to Maryland with his mom where he got back into shape. “Planet fitness had opened back up so I was able to go to the gym.” He also added: “I was able to see my mom who I had not seen in 3-4 months. It was a lot better.”

Even with the struggles of being raised by a single mother, teaching himself how to play football, having to prepare himself for the SATs, and keep up on his school work, Harris prevailed. He credits Neptune natives, and pro-football players Vinny Curry and Keith Kirkwood for being his motivation. Although it took him a moment to think, the 6’0” 220 pound linebacker compared himself to Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu. “Even though he is a Safety, we have the same personality. He’s went through trial and error, but at the end of the day if you give him a chance he will take that chance and make the best of it.” 

William Harris wants to succeed. His high school career was not an average one. During his summers he spent hours in a car, or on a plane to attend camps in states such as Virginia and North Carolina. Finally, after years of hard work he announced in May he is “400% committed” to the City College of San Francisco.  “I made great chemistry with my teammates and coaches to be looked upon as a freshman who can be a leader.” Harris is currently working Sunday to Friday at a warehouse to afford college expenses. In two years he hopes to transfer to a PAC-12 school such as Arizona State. 

After football Harris plans to become a physical therapist’s assistant, and hopes to own a Dodge Charger. He is both excited and nervous to head to the West coast in February, and play his first college football game on February 27th. As Tyrann Mathieu once said, “They measured my height, they measured my weight but they never measured my heart.” Besides his talent, that is what William Harris brings to the football field: Heart. He is dedicated to the game and is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, even if that means moving across the country.