Malik Harrison Achieves Childhood Dream, Brings Versatility to Ohio State From Nearby Walnut Ridge

By Eric Seger on February 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

With aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents by his side, Malik Harrison sat down and took a deep breath. He knew what he was going to say, but had to add some flair.

After he scribbled his name on his National Letter of Intent, Harrison extended his right arm and hovered his hand above four hats—Ohio State, Louisville, Indiana and Wisconsin. A big smile stretched across his face, he then sat back and reached under the table to pull out a scarlet visor before yanking it down over his hair and onto his head.

"For the next four years, I will be going to Ohio State," Harrison said, igniting a packed Walnut Ridge High School gymnasium into a chorus of "O-H, I-O" chants.

A versatile three-star athlete who could end up at wide receiver or linebacker for the Buckeyes, Harrison said multiple schools had a chance to land his services. But only one will help him achieve a childhood dream.

"When I was a little boy, I always watched Ohio State," he said. "I always used to tell my dad, 'When I go to college I want to be a Buckeye.'"

Now, he has that opportunity.

The 25th member of Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class, Harrison is a rare Columbus City League talent to earn a Buckeye offer.

"It's quite an accomplishment," Harrison said. "It's very hard for a city kid to be offered by Ohio State so I'm proud of myself for being able to be a Buckeye."

“It feels great to have that weight off my shoulders, to be a Buckeye. This day is going to be memorable.”– Malik Harrison

Harrison leaves behind a strong legacy at Walnut Ridge, also as a terrific basketball player at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He leads a laid back, reticent life that now serves as a beacon for younger kids from his hometown.

"It kind of gives a vision for some of the young kids that, 'Yeah I can do it too. He grew up right down the street from me,'" Walnut Ridge head coach Byron Mattox said. "You see him go through the process and is a great role model for these young kids."

Though he is soft spoken in nature, an entirely different beast comes out when he puts on his pads and jumps between the lines, Mattox said.

"He can transform on the football field. He's not loud and boisterous, but just his level of intensity kicks up," Mattox said, fondly recalling how Harrison took over games against Marion Franklin this past season and then Eastmoor as a junior.

"Off the field, he's a humble, quiet young man. Kid you want your kids to grow up and be like."

Harrison thought he was headed to Indiana, before Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell reached out and extended an offer his way Dec. 7. The dream was finally in reach, but Harrison didn't commit right away. It's not in his nature.

"Malik, he's one that takes his time and does his due diligence before he makes a decision," Mattox said. "A lot of people, when he got offered ... thought it was a done deal but Malik wanted to visit. He wanted to take his time."

That happened, but after sitting down again with Fickell, Meyer and his family, Harrison elected to have a conversation with the Indiana coaching staff he knew wasn't going to be easy.

"It was hard because me and my relationship with the coaches was great," Harrison said of the Hoosiers. "When I went there in the summertime, it was great. We used to talk every day, talking about the season, talk about my basketball season talked about everything.

"But I picked Ohio State because it is close to home, it is a great place to go. For my future, it will be bright to go to The Ohio State University on and off the field."

Ohio State alumni litter the Harrison family. Naturally, they were constantly in Malik's ear to be a Buckeye once the scholarship offer finally came. Still, he wouldn't budge on making a decision until "about a week ago" before announcing Wednesday.

"They were tell me to go here, go here," Harrison said. "I had to kind of push that away and do what is best for me."

After doing his due diligence, what ended up being the best thing for him was all scarlet and gray. He wants to play wide receiver, but is ready to contribute however Ohio State needs him.

"Malik was really strongly considering the other schools, but he really has his heart set on playing offense," Mattox said. "He wanted to be assured that he'll at least get a chance to start there and then an opportunity to compete and see where that goes. That ball is in his court now. He sat with Coach Meyer, sat with Coach Fickell and that came to fruition so that's where he signed."

"It feels great to have that weight off my shoulders, to be a Buckeye," Harrison said. "This day is going to be memorable."

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