Whether it’s on the track or the football field, SUU student-athlete Frank Harris III soars beyond expectations. He’s done it his whole life, and at this point, it’s just becoming a habit.
He was born in Southern California and his family bounced around making stops in Inglewood, Compton and Long Beach.
“It was pretty tough,” Harris said. “There’s a bunch of stereotypes about that area and how it’s ghetto. I grew up around that. I’ve seen a lot.”
Since he could walk, Harris displayed a special talent for all things athletic. As he was getting ready to start high school approached, Harris’ parents decided that in order for Frank to reach his full potential, they needed to get out of Los Angeles County. His family made a financial sacrifice to move to Henderson, Nev. where he attended Basic Academy High School.
Harris was a three-sport athlete there and shined in track and field, basketball and football. His versatility across multiple sports helped mold him into the physical specimen we see today.
After playing wide receiver and safety his first three years at Basic, his coaches asked him to move to linebacker his senior year. He won defensive MVP of his league that season and won Maxpreps athlete of the year in 2017 for his performance in the high jump.
San Diego State University was heavily recruiting Harris to play wideout for the Aztecs. He loved playing football and basketball, but felt intimidated by the toll that Division I football can take on the body.
“I was like, you know, I’m really good at track, so I might as well just go that route,” Harris said. “That’s how I ended up signing [with SUU].”
He was a three-time state champion in the high jump and saw a brighter future on the track team. He came to SUU with the Summer Olympics in mind, but during his first semester, something else caught his attention.
“I ended up missing football… I remember my first semester just watching football games here in the cold and thinking, ‘This is not where I’m supposed to be.’ I was looking out on the field just missing it, it just looked so fun.”
Harris knew he wanted to return to football, but that didn’t distract him from his duties on the track team. Harris set a personal record of 7’ 1” in the high jump in his freshman season.
Harris began to feel like he had hit a plateau in high jumping. His scores were still impressive, but it felt like he wasn’t getting better. He trained with added intensity and when he set his personal record, he felt like he could accomplish anything.
He trained after track season to get into football shape and approached the football program with the his aspiration for playing both sports.
The football team welcomed him with open arms by the football coaching staff and started practicing with the football team once track season came to an end.
Harris carried that energy back to the football field in the fall of 2018 and caught touchdown passes against FBS teams Oregon State and Arizona. He proved to be a valuable target for jump balls and fade routes in the red zone.
When spring rolled back around, Harris was in the best shape of his life due to the extra workouts with the football team.
Harris set another personal and school record of 7’ 3” and went on to win to the Big Sky Indoor Individual Championship.
Being a two-sport athlete is not conducive to a typical college social life. Harris balances daily workouts with the football and track teams, class attendance, homework and a social life all while maintaining a part-time job on the weekends.
The overstuffed schedule pushes him to the limit each day, but Harris values the life experience that his unique situation brings.
“It’s tough. It’s a lot of time taken out of the day, but if you want it, you got to grind for it. I learned that I’m capable of more than what I thought I was originally. I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Family has been an important motivator in his whirlwind lifestyle. Harris is committed to his role as an oldest son and tries to set a good example for his younger brother, Jaylen.
Jaylen is a year younger than Frank, and the two have formed a special bond after moving around together growing up.
“I’ve lived with him my whole life. We’ve been through ups and downs. That’s my rock. If I was to say I loved anybody the most in the world, if I had to really choose, it would be him.”
Frank uses his love for Jaylen and the rest of his family to keep him moving forward when the going gets rough.
Every day represents a new challenge for him. Harris dreams of qualifying for the Olympics and playing in the NFL someday. Like “Bullet” Bob Hayes and Jim Thorpe before him, Harris has dreams of representing his country and catching touchdowns on Sundays.
No sane person would believe that’s even possible. He’s not naive about how difficult the feat would be, but Frank Harris III sets his bar of expectations higher than the rest of us do.
No matter how high it is, he believes that with some hard work and pinch of unmatched athleticism he’ll clear that bar.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communication