COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Terps running back Lorenzo Harrison almost went from being one of Maryland’s most impactful freshman ever to hit the gridiron to an unfortunate story of wasted opportunity in College Park. He knows it and he’s using it as motivation to stay on the straight and narrow path moving forward.
After rushing for 633 yards--just 57 yards shy of Maryland’s freshman rushing record--through the first nine games of the 2016 season, Harrison was suspended indefinitely in November and missed the final four games of the year. He was soon after charged with his alleged involvement in an incident that included shooting an airsoft gun on campus. As the university’s office of student conduct reviewed his case over the next few months, Harrison didn’t know if he’d ever be able to rejoin Maryland’s football program or finish out his education in College Park.
Harrison received a second chance Jan. 11 when charges were dropped and he was reinstated due to what was cited as insufficient evidence. But his time away from the football field was filled with uncertainty and reflection, which helped put a lot into perspective for the Hillcrest Heights, Md., native.
“It means a lot because it really got to me how fast everything was almost taken away from me,” Harrison said April 13 during his first time addressing the media since his suspension. “It put an emphasis on me to work as hard as I can, stay focused and do what I came here to do.”
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Before taking questions, Harrison recited a prepared statement that showed his gratitude for being back with the Terps and to those who helped him get there.
“First I just want to apologize for the negative light that I placed on the university, my coaches, the fans,” Harrison said. “I know that it was really hard for everybody when I was no longer with the team for the period of time that I was. And I just want to say that I’m really appreciative to the university, Dr. [Wallace] Loh, my coaches and everybody who fought for me to be back with the university and be back on the team playing the game I love.”
While waiting for a decision to be reached regarding his reinstatement, Harrison didn’t know what his future would hold. But coming to Maryland as a standout runner from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic last year seems to have provided Harrison with the type of support system that was able to keep him at peace during a difficult time.
“I was wondering which way things were going to go but I just kept praying and I knew Coach Durkin had my back and the whole university really had my back, so I knew however it turned out was going to be the best for me,” Harrison said.
But Harrison’s journey has been about more than just trying to get back to school and football as soon as possible.
The lessons that he has learned along the way are ones that Harrison believes will help guide him throughout the course of his life. Having already expended his chance to receive the benefit of the doubt in the future, Harrison knows he must be more careful and make wiser decisions off the field.
“I feel like it has really matured me because I got into something really early in my career so I know I can’t have anymore slip ups,” Harrison said. “So I’m glad I got that out of the way and I just have to be mature and stay away from all the foolishness.”
Harrison is part of a talented and crowded backfield in College Park that many believe is the most stacked position the Terps have to offer. But if you ask him, he’s willing to defer to his blockers up front who help open up the holes for him and his fellow tailbacks to run through.
“The best unit on the team I would say is the O-line,” Harrison said with a big smile.
That’s the kind of mature and humble person Harrison can be, someone who puts others first and represents his university well through his actions. He knows he made a selfish mistake that almost cost him big time, but even then, he had his teammates and coaches in the forefront of his mind.
“When I got suspended, it hurt me but it hurt me even more that I couldn’t be out there with my team because I knew how much it affected them,” Harrison said.
However, when it came to making decisions on the football field last year, Harrison had no issue. The 5-foot-8, 193-pound, elusive tailback specialized in making defenders miss and bursting through holes for big plays. He broke Maryland’s rookie record for yards per carry (7.2) and made history by being the first Terps freshman to rush for a touchdown in each of his first four games. But even so, Harrison is still preparing for the 2017 season with a chip on his shoulder.
“I feel like I did a decent job last year but I feel like I still have a lot to prove,” Harrison said. “I showed that I’m pretty shifty and I can score touchdowns but I feel like there’s still a lot that people want to see from me. A lot of people doubt me so I feel like I still have a lot to prove.”