Damien Harris was one of the crowned jewels of Kentucky high school football in the 2010s. The former Madison Southern High School star earned five-star status as a prospect after he racked up 6,748 yards and 122 touchdowns in his high school career.
Going into his third year as Kentucky’s head coach, Mark Stoops had a chance to land Harris and prove he could improve on what was a 7-17 record at the time. UK worked hard for Harris, but he still went to Alabama, where he finished up his college career last year.
But Stoops got a lot closer to landing Harris’ commitment than most would think.
Harris admitted to CampusLore that he came as close as he possibly could to committing to UK ... without actually committing to UK.
“I was 100% going to Kentucky,” Harris said in an interview CampusLore posted to Twitter on Thursday. “... My mom, you know, she was sitting there beside me, she’s like ‘you still haven’t told me where you’re going.’ And I was just like, ‘oh, my bad, I’m going to Kentucky, just so you know.’”
Sometimes you need to go with your gut. @DHx34 pic.twitter.com/sxkbpx76f7— CampusLore (@CampusLore) January 2, 2020
When Harris was making his announcement, he just picked up the Alabama hat and went there instead.
“I was like, you know, ‘And I’ll be attending the University of —’ and I went to go pick up the Kentucky hat and I don’t know why or what happened but I just picked the Alabama hat up and put it on. And went to Alabama.”
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the interviewer’s reaction to this bombshell.
Harris’ choice worked out for him. He entered college football’s biggest dynasty, where he put up two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, won two national championships and tacked on three SEC titles before the New England Patriots drafted him in the third round of the NFL Draft last year. He’ll make over $1 million playing football this season. Not bad.
Harris’ choice worked out for UK too. Without the five-star recruit at the top of the depth chart, Benny Snell made his way into the running back rotation when he got to UK a year later.
All he did was post three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, which was enough to break UK’s all-time career rushing record. It was also enough to earn him First-Team All-SEC honors his junior year.
In the process of setting several school records, Snell ran UK into a 10-3 season and a Citrus Bowl win in 2018 — arguably the best season UK football has ever had.
He also made a pretty penny playing football this year after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the fourth round.
It’s hard to imagine that Harris would’ve been able to do enough to propel UK football any further than Snell did. And with no one ahead of him on the depth chart, he, like Snell, would’ve left UK after three years.
All’s well that ends well, but Harris came that close to being Stoops’ first and only five-star signee at UK.