Antioch’s Najee Harris in running for Heisman Trophy for performance as Alabama running back

Najee Harris hurdles an Ole Miss player. Photo: University of Alabama Football

Scores 5 TD’s in SEC Championship game, named MVP; showered with national honors; Heisman presentation Thursday on ESPN; will play in Rose Bowl Jan. 1

Najee Harris. Photo: UAF

By Jesus Cano

University of Alabama running back Najee Harris has taken the college football world by storm this season, but anyone who saw him play at Antioch High School knew this would happen

On Saturday night, Harris and the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide took down No. 7 Florida in the SEC championship, where he was named the MVP. He recorded five touchdowns, three receiving and two rushing, and 245 all-purpose yards. His performances all season have put him in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy – given to the best college football player, for which he’s been training. Harris is one of the final five candidates, voting ended on Monday, Dec. 21, and the 2020 Heisman Trophy Finalists Reveal Show will be held Thursday, Dec. 24 at 4:30 pm Pacific Time on ESPN, and the winner presented on Jan. 5.

“A lot of stuff has happened this year,” Harris said. “We’re happy to be here.” (See his postgame press conference)

Overall, during his senior season, the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Harris rushed for 24 touchdowns and 1,262 yards, for a total of 1,578 yards including 312 receiving, after choosing to stay in school to play one more year and forego entering the NFL draft. For Harris’ four-year college career, he has 4,311 total yards, including 3,649 rushing.

Harris is Alabama’s all-time leader in career touchdowns, surpassing current NFL running backs Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram, and Seattle Seahawks legend, Shaun Alexander. Harris is also just 101 yards shy of breaking the all-time rushing yards record at Alabama.

Harris evades an Arkansas State player. Photo: UAF

Last week, he was chosen one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, which is presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates.

In the description of Harris for that award, it reads, “One of the nation’s top running backs, Harris has…overcome a challenging childhood in which he faced homelessness to become a vocal leader during the Alabama team’s social justice movement and one of the main voices for his university’s push towards a more unified campus. He has also been an active member in the Tuscaloosa community, recording nearly 50 hours of community service, highlighted by his volunteer efforts with the Alberta Head Start Unity Project.”

Harris is also one of 14 student-athletes named to the 2020 SEC Football Community Service Team for his work and  it was just announced on Monday, Dec. 21st during the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) honors presentation, he is one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award. The honor was created in 1989 to recognize the nation’s premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. The winner will be announced during The 30th Annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on Thursday, Jan. 7, at 4 p.m. PT, on ESPN.

Harris was also a semi-finalist for The Maxwell Award which is presented annually to the college football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and NCAA head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best all-around in the United States.

Now, he and the Tide shift their focus to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) College Football Playoffs, where Alabama will play No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1 at 1:00 p.m. Due to the State of California COVID-19 health orders, the game won’t be played in Pasadena, but at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas, instead.

Najee Harris stretches for the touchdown vs. Clemson in the 2019 BCS Championship game. Photo: UAF

Harris committed to Alabama his sophomore year of high school, very early to decide even for an athlete as rated as he was. And while there were talks of last-minute flips to Michigan or Cal, Harris remained true to the Crimson Tide.

“Words can’t express how happy and proud I am for Najee,” Antioch defensive coordinator Brett Dudley said. “It’s amazing getting to see him every Saturday on TV and it was great to see he graduated a couple weeks ago. It’s great for the city of Antioch because he will forever be the inspiration for every kid growing up in Antioch. The best example there is that if you’re a great person and you do all the right things on and off the field, you can achieve all of your dreams.”

Harris ended his high school career with 99 touchdowns for the Panthers, with 7,948 rushing yards. Antioch went undefeated in 2015, winning its first league title since 1984. The following year, Antioch made it to the NCS DI championship, but came up short, losing to Monte Vista.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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