The ball was on Plaquemine High School 8-yard-line. Their defense was on the ropes and in need of a stand. The ball was snapped by the offense. Plaquemine’s opponent on the day was South Lafourche.
The Tarpons’ quarterback pitched it to the halfback, who took a few strides to the right, then opened up into a passing stance.
It was a trick play—a halfback pass. It was wide open, too—a sure touchdown 99 times out of 100. But Plaquemine safety Todd Harris was that one time.
He always is.
He made a play, which changed the rest of the game in favor of his team.
After the pass was in the air, Harris covered ground like a gazelle, diving toward the back of the end zone, snagging the ball out of the air and securing his feet in-bounds.
Instead of a Tarpons touchdown, it was a Plaquemine interception—another play on a seemingly endless highlight reel for one of the most highly touted LSU signees in the Class of 2017.
Indeed, LSU fans rejoiced on National Signing Day when Harris, a 6-foot, 180-pound, four-star safety chose the Tigers over Alabama—the only other school recruiting experts say he seriously considered out of several dozen offers from just about everyone in the country.
The guy who coached against him on the night he intercepted that halfback pass is a former LSU player, former South Lafourche coach Brandon Nowlin, who played on the Tigers’ 2003 National Championship team.
He said after the game that the incoming defensive back is a whole ‘nother level of good.
“Against maybe any other safety in America, we score a touchdown there,” Nowlin said. “We just picked on the wrong guy. He made a ridiculous play. But we’ve watched his tape. We’ve seen his film. For him, that’s just a regular old cruise down the park. He’s an excellent football player, and I know someone on Saturday’s is going to love to have him for the next couple of falls.”
That someone is LSU, and the Tigers expect Harris to compete for time right away.
Because of his size, Harris is not expected to need much time to acclimate to life in the SEC, which ought to put him ahead of other freshmen on the depth chart.
On Signing Day when he announced LSU as his pick, he said it was because of the Tigers’ rich tradition of putting defensive backs into the NFL. That, and of course, the school’s close proximity to home.
“It’s just a dream, man,” Harris said on Signing Day. “They fit my skills and my strengths well, and the coaching staff just made me feel like I was about to be part of something special. It was just something that I wanted to be part of.”
LSU fans will love the big plays and Harris’ ability to always find the football.
At Plaquemine, he played multiple positions in the defensive backfield. He also touched the ball a handful of times in special teams and in the return game.
Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said he was one of the best the school has seen, and that’s saying a lot, because they’ve sent several players to the next level in the past decade, including former LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of good ones, but Todd is up there with them all,” Distefano said during the season. “He works hard, has the right attitude about him and he’s a good leader – both on and off the field.”
At LSU, Harris will not need to be as versatile, and his energies will likely be focused solely on his work as a safety.
That’s OK by him.
He’s one of a kind in that realm.
Owning elite speed and superb ball-hawking skills, Harris has a rare ability to find the ball in the air. Once he does, he also has plus-grade hands, which allows for swats, interceptions and other positive plays.
If a reception is made, Harris isn’t yet an elite tackler, but he’s a willing one, the ability to haul down tight ends, halfbacks or receivers in the open field.
In coverage, Harris is also savvy, which could also make him a nickel or dime corner in his LSU career.
Add it all up, and it looks like the Tigers have again struck gold at Plaquemine – another quality defensive back with eyes on adding to the lofty reputation of DBU.
Harris said he can’t wait to be a Tiger, calling it something he’s wanted his entire life.
He said the first time he runs through Tiger Stadium’s tunnel and onto the field will be a moment he’ll never forget.
“It’s a special feeling,” Harris said. “Now, I just want to work hard and represent our team and our state and make everyone proud.”