When Nick Harris signed with Washington in 2016, his only other scholarship offers were from New Hampshire and Cal Poly.
Look at him now.
On Saturday, Harris was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 160th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
“You’re talking about unbelievable quickness,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Harris on Saturday. “That first step as well as first hand quickness, with this off hand, he gets that hand on you immediately. You see what he can do climbing up to linebackers. He can cut them off. You want to use him in any type of zone scheme where he can show off his athleticism both laterally as well as working up a level.
“The challenge is going to come when he gets big, power and size right over his nose. He’s going to give some ground, and that’s just going to happen because of his size and lack of length there. But this is somebody that in the run game, he’s going to be an asset because of that athleticism.”
And, sure, the above sentiment might have seemed unlikely when Harris first arrived at UW. Few, if any, expected a 6-foot-1, 276-pound freshman to play in 12 games and start four in an undefeated regular season.
The Inglewood, Calif., product even surprised himself.
“I came in with the intention of redshirting, trying to get as big as possible and try to make an impact next year. But I got the opportunity in camp and I had to do what I had to do,” Harris told The Times in 2016. “When I got the chance, I went hard and fast. And I think that’s the thing with most freshmen offensive linemen; they come in and they don’t really know the scheme so they play kind of hesitant and reserved.
“When I got the assignments down in camp, I unleashed. I just went as fast as possible and as hard as possible. I was irritating the d-linemen because I was always in their face, always in their chest just ready to go.”
Harris didn’t need much time to get going. The former JSerra Catholic High School standout played in 25 games at guard in his first two seasons in Seattle, then started 25 more games at center as a junior and a senior. He was named to the All-Pac-12 first team both in 2018 and 2019, and was dubbed a Sports Illustrated second-team All-American following his senior season as well. He dealt in blocks, dance moves and self-explanatory undershirts, and he won the Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational Award at the team’s postseason banquet last winter.
Maybe that’s because none of this was expected of Harris — a 6-1, 302-pound center who has Washington’s block W tattooed under his right elbow. Likewise, some say he’s too small to succeed in the NFL.
But, same as at Washington, all Harris needs is an opportunity. Give him a jersey and a playbook.
And then watch him unleash.