Nov. 9—OXFORD — Ole Miss sophomore defensive lineman Zxavian Harris is no stranger to the art of blocking kicks. He's been doing it since he was in middle school and estimates he had at least 20 blocked field goals to his name before his college career even began.
The 6-foot-7, 335-pounder blocked Texas A&M's game-tying field goal try last weekend, sealing the No. 9 Rebels (8-1, 5-1 SEC) 38-35 win.
Ole Miss has won five-straight games since losing its SEC opener and faces two-time defending national champion Georgia this weekend in Athens, Georgia. Harris was named the following the win over the Aggies. He had a career-best seven tackles.
"I don't know what was going through my mind. I was just looking. I said, 'I'm about to get to this ball' the whole time. I said 'I'm about to get it,'" Harris said. "So I just put my hand up and it hit my fingertips ... From when the ball was in the air, I said, 'I tipped it, I tipped it.'"
Harris — a four-star recruit from the 2022 class who has blossomed on the defensive line as well — is tied for second nationally with two blocked kicks.
Perhaps just as impressive is Harris has done his work in just seven games, having missed matchups against Auburn and Vanderbilt with injury. He is the first Ole Miss player with multiple blocked kicks in a season since at least 1999, according to statistical archives from Ole Miss and the NCAA.
Just 13 players nationally have blocked more than one kick this season; Harris is the only one from the SEC. The national leader is Pitt linebacker Rasheem Biles, who has three. Harris' efforts alone have Ole Miss tied for 14th nationally in blocked kicks. His 91.1 special teams grade is second on the Rebels behind junior linebacker Ladarius Tennison according to Pro Football Focus. Harris has blocked three kicks overall in his career.
"I enjoy field goal blocks," Harris said. " ... I know my mindset, every time I go to field goal is just 'block.' That's all that's going through my head. Block, block, penetrate, disruption. Every time."
Harris' constant effort on a play-by-play basis — it doesn't matter if it's on a defensive line rep or on a field goal block, according to senior defensive end Jared Ivey — does not go unnoticed by teammates. He is going as hard as he can every snap, and Ivey has tremendous respect for that effort.
Harris has 11 total tackles this season, 3.5 coming for loss, and also has a sack.
"Zay's got an unbelievable motor, unbelievable work ethic. He's an extremely disruptive player. We call him a crash dummy," Ivey said. " ... He doesn't have an off switch. He doesn't pick and choose when he's going to go hard, and I think you can really see that on field goal block. One got blocked this past weekend, but five or six could have got blocked throughout the year, the way that guy goes into that rep and takes that serious and really tries to put the team on his back and change games.
" ... Taking something, a role that might be viewed on the outside-looking in as so small so seriously, I think it's a real testament to his character as a person."