Smart, Tough, Reliable: The Story of N’Keal Harry

Before coming to the United States, 21 year old N’Keal Harry spent the earliest part of his childhood on a small island in Saint Vincent, where the population was last estimated to be under 110,000. Like many other countries, the popularity of American football is nowhere near that of soccer and rugby.

(Fun fact: you may be surprised to know that this was the birthplace of former Sounders assistant coach, Ezra Hendrickson. Small world.)

N’Keal, alongside his beloved grandmother Felna, moved far away from his family and home at the age of four to pursue better “opportunity.” With the blessing of N’Keal’s mother, Felna took her grandson to Phoenix, Arizona. Population: 1.6 million. Though he wouldn’t have much say in the matter at four, this was a pivotal moment for Harry. It represented a very difficult decision from strong female influencers in his life, made to set an example for him later in life.

N’Keal would tell you that he feels obligated to pay off those sacrifices, as if failure wasn’t an option. That’s a lot of pressure to put on oneself but, more relevant to football, it represents a selfless quality rarely apparent in any 21-year old; a quality no doubt picked up from his aforementioned heroines: Wisdom.

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The Seattle Seahawks are constantly looking for young men who have overcome adversity. Harry’s story, in some ways, can be likened to that of Amara Darboh. Without trivializing the murders of Amara’s birth parents in the civil war of Sierra Leone, both boys share a similarity in that they were transplanted far away to begin a new life. I obviously can’t speak firsthand, but I can only imagine how hard it is for a child to adapt and overcome in a foreign place without many familiar faces. Certainly, when you study the background of N’Keal, you check off another one of the boxes: Toughness.

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Fast forward to Harry’s days at Chandler High School, where he laid foundational bricks that would round out his dominant athletic profile. The young man was a three-sport student, participating in track & field, basketball, and, of course, football. N’Keal admits that his first love was basketball. Of course, when it became evident to Harry that the NFL was a possibility, he would fully dedicate himself to football. Though the multi-sport thing isn’t exclusive to the Seahawks’ organization, we know they absolutely factor it into their background evaluations.

When the time came to select a university, the name N’Keal Harry had reached far beyond the small island of St. Vincent. According to this 2016 prospect ranking, Harry was the #1 WR in the country and the 18th overall ranked recruit, ahead of AJ Brown (53) and DK Metcalf (70), as well as Ed Oliver (19) and Nick Bosa (21). Not bad company.

With offers from thirteen schools, Harry would only visit three: Texas A&M, Washington, and Arizona State, who he would eventually commit to in November of 2015. This was a massive win for an ASU program with a terrible record of keeping in-state recruits from leaving. Perhaps they should thank Grandma Felna for that, though, because according to N’Keal, being close to his Nana was a massive factor in this decision — sorry Huskies.

In Tempe, N’Keal would go on to play in every single game without an injury. In school history, he ranks third in receptions and receiving yards and fifth in receiving touchdowns, behind only one other player to do it in three seasons. By the time Harry would declare for the NFL Draft, he would have checked off the final box that ultimately gives him the full makeup profile for a Seahawk: Reliability.

Now, don’t think that reliability simply means that N’Keal is just some durable possession receiver that does the little things right. Make no mistake, this is a freaky athlete and dangerous playmaker.  I implore all to do their own film study to come up with their own assessment but here’s a nice summary anyway.

(Shout out Voch Lombardi come on the PODE!)

I want to make sure to get across something that some draftniks fail to give credence to: interviews. Sure, these moments don’t necessarily tell you what kind of athlete you’re evaluating, but they can certainly give indicators for what type of human-being you’re getting.

I absolutely loved Harry’s declaration interview, specifically when prompted about role models. The first name he mentions is Larry Fitzgerald. As a kid who grew up in Arizona, and someone with half a brain, I can’t imagine there being very many names a general manager would rather hear, when asking a prospect about their idols. Not only has Larry been one of the best to ever do it, but his character goes so far opposite of the selfish divas we see in droves throughout the league. You’ll never hear someone with a negative thing to say about Larry, but you’ll almost never hear a kid mention him as a guy they model their game after either! Fitzgerald is the quintessential prototype for a smart, tough, reliable receiver. It was such a thoughtful answer versus most guys who just pick the latest and greatest name without thought as to their skillset or style remotely resembling (i.e. Derrius Guice comparing himself to Marshawn Lynch).

If you only have a couple more minutes to spare you should absolutely key in on Coach Edwards answering a reporter’s question about what makes a first round receiver at the 9:48 mark. It’s as if he was reading a poem he wrote for Pete Carroll.

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After months of preparation leading into Thursday night, N’Keal Harry is the player I’ve fallen for. He is who the fan in me hopes Seattle drafts.

Objectively, I believe he makes a lot of sense. I know there’s an additional void left in the wake of the Frank Clark trade, and I know this team likely won’t stay put with five total picks.

But I don’t care.

Just draft N’Keal Harry and let me confirm one freaking prior.