For two weeks, the Colorado football staff had to keep it quiet that one of the top high school players in the state of Arizona signed his national letter of intent.
When the news finally became public, last Thursday, CU assistant head coach Darrin Chiaverini posted a video of head coach Mel Tucker and staff celebrating Jason Harris’ signing.
“That was awesome,” Harris, from Gilbert, Ariz., said of the video. “You always want to feel wanted and needed in a program. I look forward to being just another piece to the puzzle. They have tons of great players they’ve brought in on offense and defense. I look forward to playing with all those guys.”
Harris, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound defensive end/outside linebacker, made his decision official by signing with the Buffs on Dec. 18, but made it public last week when he announced his college choice on ESPNU during the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla.
“It wasn’t very tough at all,” he said of keeping the secret. “Being able to announce it on ESPN along with the All-American game, I was able to do it with a pretty big audience. A lot of people were watching. Growing up, I watched that game since I was like maybe six or seven years old. I’ve always wanted to do it in an All-American game like the Under Armour.
“I thought it was a great way to try to build my brand and introduce myself to the sports world a little bit better.”
Not every prospect has that opportunity – he was one of six to announce during the game) – but Harris’ hard work put him at an elite level. The highest-rated player in CU’s 2020 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com, Harris is a four-star prospect that was coveted by many teams.
He chose CU over Arizona, Indiana and UCLA, but had more than 20 offers, including from nine Pac-12 teams, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas and Texas A&M.
“My relationship with the whole staff,” he said. “My relationship with them was really good. Coach (Brian) Michalowski, the support staff there. They made me feel at home and it felt like a family there.”
Family, it seemed, could have led Harris to Arizona. His father, Sean, played linebacker at Arizona from 1991-94 before a seven-year NFL career. His mother, ChaRon, played women’s basketball at Arizona. And, his brother, Jalen, is currently a starting linebacker for the Wildcats.
Harris chose his own path, however.
“There wasn’t any family pressure at all,” he said. “At the end of the day, my family loves me unconditionally. They just want me to be happy. This is only a once in a lifetime opportunity, so they just told me to follow my heart and at the end of the day, they’ll ride with me.”
Harris felt even more comfortable about his choice as he talked to other top prospects. He spoke with several players who have signed with SEC schools.
“They had a lot of great things to say about coach Tucker,” Harris said. “They absolutely loved him. They were like, ‘That’s a great choice. Coach Tucker is a really cool guy.’ It just made me feel a lot more comfortable going there.”
Before coming to CU 13 months ago, Tucker spent four years as an assistant in the SEC and recruited many of the top players in the country, building relationships with them along the way.
Now, Tucker will get a chance to work with Harris, who had 54 tackles and 24 sacks at Higley High School this past season. He wrapped up his senior year by playing in Orlando last week.
“It went really well,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of great players and coaches. It was a great experience. Just being around all the players and talent, there’s definitely things I can learn.”
He will be around a lot of talent in Boulder, as well, and hopes to learn even more during his time with the Buffs.
“For me, it was more about developing as a player on and off the field,” Harris said of coming to CU. “It’s another plus that Colorado is a beautiful place to live.”
Harris, who graduates in May and will arrive at CU this summer, is projected to play outside linebacker for the Buffs. He’s excited to get after quarterbacks and join what is shaping up to be a talented front seven.
“The Pac-12 is a passing league, too, so I’m very excited to go in and work my butt off and become great,” he said.
“I think we’ll have a really great defense. I think we can be one of the best in the Pac-12 and even the nation.”