Halifax County High School’s Tucker Harris

Halifax County High School’s Tucker Harris (55) and Zach Carter (72) team up to bring down a Tunstall High School runner during a 2019 senior night game at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium.

One February morning when Tucker Harris was 4 years old he wandered into his parents bedroom at 2:30 a.m. and his father, Dale, woke up thinking something was wrong.

Once he got his father’s attention by standing inches from his face he asked his dad if when he started playing football whether the practices were going to be at night or in the morning. Dale knew right then that he had to sign his son up for football, and almost 14 years later Harris is still at it.

Harris began his football playing days with the Cluster Springs 49ers in recreation league. He also was a great baseball and basketball player growing up. He has benefited from having size and speed throughout his life and has used that to become an all-region football player heading into his senior year.

When Harris reached the middle school he began playing football and basketball in the seventh grade, and he continued playing basketball through his sophomore year in high school. Harris made the decision to focus on football because he was losing a lot of weight during the basketball season, and he wanted to gain more weight and muscle by working out. So Harris used that time to build into his now 6-foot-3 250 pound frame.

When Harris reached the middle school, he had the size and speed to be successful but he lacked the confidence to become the player that his parents and coaches knew he could be.

With the help of coaches Frank Sheely, LeVar Medley and W.J. Long, Harris gained that confidence, and he began to shine. Harris and his father both praise those coaches for helping take his game to the next level.

“I am really thankful to have great coaches from recreation league to middle school and now,” Harris said.

Harris also thanked his basketball coaches at the high school, Sterling Williams and Nathan Lantor for all of their help and guidance when he played for them.

Harris’ father, uncle and great uncle were all successful in their sports careers. His father Dale played baseball and football all through high school. His uncle Tom Harris was a member of the Halifax baseball team’s 1984 state championship team, and his great uncle Chip Conner was a standout basketball player for Halifax who went on to have a successful basketball career at The University of Virginia. Conner held the scoring record at Halifax for many years and was a first team all-ACC player while at UVA.

Harris was able to begin playing on the varsity football team immediately his freshman season and has started every football game for the Blue Comets since. The average high school football player will play 20 games at the varsity level. When Harris finishes his senior season, he will have amassed over 40 games at the varsity level, something that very few student athletes will do in their high school careers. Harris plays defensive end and tight end for the team, and even moved to the offensive line during his junior season to help out his team.

Halifax football head coach Grayson Throckmorton said that they were hurting for offensive lineman last season due to injuries and other circumstances and reached out to Harris and two of his teammates about making the switch from tight end to offensive lineman.

All three of the players agreed to make the move to the line, and Throckmorton said Harris came to him and told him that he would do whatever was needed to make the team better.

“That just shows the kind of young man that he is. He is going to put the team ahead of himself and that speaks volumes,” Throckmorton said.

Harris has the unique advantage of playing at the same position on defense since he was very young. He began playing at defensive end when he was 5 and he thinks that gives him an advantage over other players at that position. “I know the position really well, and I think that not a lot of people have the experience that I have at that position,” Harris said.

Harris has improved each year that he has been on the team. He made honorable mention all-district his freshman and sophomore year, and made first team-all district his junior year. Harris also was named to the second team all-region team this past season. When asked about his personal goals for his upcoming senior season Harris says that he is aiming to make it onto the all-state team.

As for team goals, he wants to make it back to the playoffs and says that the main goal is to make it to the state playoffs.

Harris also is a student of the game of football. His father says that one day he could be a very good football coach because he knows the game so well. He says that is what separates him from some of the other kids on the field because of the way he understands the game.

While Harris prepares for his senior season, he also has to work on college and playing football at the next level. The recruiting process for high school players is much different than it was in the past.

Today, the kids get their highlights compiled on a site called Hudl, which the players then send out to coaches across the country usually through social media. Harris says that he goes to Google and finds the contact information for the defensive line coaches for each school he wants to send his tape to, and then sends it to them on Twitter. Harris said that he has received a lot of responses from coaches using this method.

Harris admits that getting recruited from a rural area such as Halifax is not easy. The recruiters aren’t making as many trips to rural areas as they are to schools in larger municipal places. Harris has used social media to help get his name out there, and his ability to reach these coaches has really helped get him the looks from Division 1 programs.

Several Division 1 schools have reached out to Harris about playing for them or attending some of their camps they have scheduled this summer. Some of the schools that have been in contact with Harris are Old Dominion University, Virginia Military Institute, Liberty University, Marist College, Long Island University and Randolph Macon College.

With schools and gyms currently closed to the coronavirus pandemic Harris hasn’t let that deter him from continuing to prepare for his senior season and beyond. “I have a universal weight bench at my house, and I go to my cousins house and he has a nice set up and I lift a lot with him. I also have a treadmill and flip a tire outside as well,” Harris said. “I am doing the best that I can with what I have,” he added.

While Harris is a strong player on the field, he carries himself much different off the field. His father describes him as someone who has a very calm demeanor as a person.

“He (Harris) is disciplined, he is coachable and he is just a hardworking young man, and those are the kind of qualities that every high school coach cherishes,” Throckmorton said. “I would like to have fifteen more of him,” he added.

Harris has worked hard on and off the field to become the kind of player and student that appeals to colleges across the country. He works hard in the classroom to achieve a GPA that is well above NCCA requirements and works just as hard in the weight room and in practice to improve in every aspect of his game.

With the uncertain state of when sports will be able to begin, and even if schools will start on time in the fall, Harris’ father says that something he tells his son all the time is even more realistic today.

“Never take anything for granted, this could be the last game that you play, and know that when you step off the field that you gave it your all.”

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV