Marvin Harrison Jr. didn’t expect to be a serious contender for the Biletnikoff Award. Not as a true sophomore, anyway.
If someone told Harrison before his breakout season he’d end up a finalist for the honor, “I would’ve told you you’re crazy.”
By the conclusion of the regular season, though, Harrison felt differently. Having already become the first Buckeye to ever take home the Big Ten’s wide receiver of the year honor, Harrison thought his 72-catch, 1,157-yard, 12-touchdown campaign – all No. 1 among Buckeyes – was good enough to earn him the status of college football’s outstanding FBS receiver.
“I did feel as though I deserved to win. Congrats to Jalin, he had an unbelievable year, really. But I think I deserved to win.”– Harrison on the Biletnikoff Award
Instead, the Biletnikoff went back to Knoxville with Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt. While Harrison was graceful in defeat, he had no trouble telling reporters who he ultimately thought should’ve won the award.
“I did feel as though I deserved to win. Congrats to Jalin, he had an unbelievable year, really. But I think I deserved to win,” Harrison said in an interview at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Wednesday. “I just can’t dwell on it, I gotta move on. I got bigger and more important things to worry about right now.”
On stats alone, it would be hard to argue against Hyatt’s résumé. While the third-year wideout, who declared for the NFL draft Wednesday, had five fewer catches than Harrison, he finished with 110 more receiving yards (1,267) and three more touchdowns (15). For that reason, Harrison said Hyatt was “just as deserving as me.”
But anyone who watched Harrison make circus catches look ordinary week in and week out over the past 12 games would be hard-pressed to say any wideout in the country has a clear edge in talent over the Philadelphia product.
Of course, as Harrison has reminded us this year, it’s not raw talent alone. Buckeye coaches and teammates have raved about Harrison’s work ethic, and Brian Hartline went as far as to say "there's a lot of professionals that never worked like him."
Harrison displayed that nose-to-the-grindstone approach again a couple of hours after the Biletnikoff Award winner was announced, as Zach Harrison posted a clip of the wide receiver working with a Monarc Seeker machine by himself late at night at the WHAC. Zach Harrison’s caption read, “Y’all might have just made a monster.”
Guess where Marvin Harrison Jr. tonight after losing the Biletnikoff award pic.twitter.com/DiV8HMSJcm— Stephen Means (@Stephen_Means) December 9, 2022
The implication was that the Biletnikoff results fueled Harrison to work even harder, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Harrison said that’s just his nightly routine, and it was only a matter of coincidence.
“I mean after the Biletnikoff wasn't really on purpose. I do it every night pretty much, it just so happened to be that night that was the Biletnikoff Award show,” Harrison said. “But I'm in here every night doing that. … So I wouldn't say it's any more motivation because I've always been self-motivated. But like I said, winning the award wasn't even on my list of goals before the season, so to even be a finalist is definitely a blessing.”
And if you find it hard to believe Harrison spends every night putting in work at the WHAC, just ask his quarterback. When asked Wednesday what’s made Harrison’s breakout success possible in 2022, “work ethic” was the first thing out of C.J. Stroud’s mouth.
“He comes in here every day, every night. You know if you're in here, Marvin's probably in here,” Stroud said. “So just the work ethic speaks for itself and it pays off when you put in that work. And it combines with our game plan. … Football is such a team sport, so it takes everybody. And I think Marvin is definitely somebody who will admit to that. But he's special, man. And you can just tell he'll continue to do great things.”
So if he didn’t have his sights set on the Biletnikoff Award before the season, what was on Harrison’s list of goals? He only listed team-oriented milestones. But even though Ohio State still has a chance to win a national championship, Harrison said he hasn’t helped the Buckeyes accomplish any of those yet.
And Harrison doesn’t plan on prioritizing individual honors over team success next year, either.
“My mindset going into the year was just be the best player I can be for the team, help the team win, help us reach our goals. Which, we haven't reached any of those so far,” Harrison said. “Didn't beat the team up north, didn't win the Big Ten championship, so obviously on my part, I didn't do enough yet. Definitely what my mindset was going into this year, and it's gonna be the same thing going into next year. I'm not worried about any awards or statistics like that. So just take one day at a time.”
But make no mistake, Harrison still has plenty to show for his stellar season individually. Awarded first-team All-American honors by the Associated Press, Sporting News, Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America and the American Football Coaches Association, Harrison is the first Ohio State wide receiver to ever earn that title of unanimous All-American.
It’s not an honor he takes lightly.
“There's so many great receivers to come through here and I'm sure probably some of them got snubbed because they probably should have been a unanimous All-American too. So to be named that is definitely a blessing,” Harrison said. “I'm very thankful for that. … It's probably one of my greatest accomplishments in my life so far. So definitely proud of myself for that. All the work that has gone into that and to feel rewarded like that. So it's definitely a blessing and I just thank God for everything.”
Whether he’s aiming for them or not, as long as Harrison continues to produce, that won’t be the last prestigious honor bestowed upon him at Ohio State.