The last two years have been a big adjustment for Najee Harris. Going from Antioch, Calif., to Tuscaloosa, Ala., everything has been different. From the humidity, to the food, to the culture, it was unfamiliar.
So was the football.
Harris, at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, is one of the greatest high school football players in Bay Area history. He rushed for nearly 8,000 career yards at Antioch High School, and was one of the top college football recruits in the nation. Then the running back arrived at the University of Alabama quickly feeling homesick and searching for carries.
In the biggest game of his life, though, Harris showed off his skills under the brightest lights. The story was all about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa taking over at halftime of the College Football Playoff championship game last year, but joining him as the Crimson Tide’s running back was Harris.
On just six carries, Harris led Alabama with 64 yards rushing, all coming in the second half of a thrilling 26-23 win over Georgia.
“It’s not really a confidence builder, it didn’t spark me at all,” Harris said at Saturday’s media day at SAP Center. “I know what I can do when I get in the game. I’m not really shocked or amazed by what I can do.”
As a sophomore, Harris again is sharing carries in Alabama’s loaded backfield and again will play in the CFP championship game. He’s second on the team in rushing yards (724) and third in carries (108), but he leads by a large margin with his 6.7 yards per carry.
“To be honest, yeah,” Harris said when asked if it’s tough waiting his turn for the ball. “I think for any running back it would be. But you just gotta wait for your opportunity, and when you get in the game, show you’re ready.”
After Alabama’s Monday night clash with the Clemson Tigers at Levi’s Stadium — just over an hour’s drive from his hometown — Harris will have at least one more season in college before turning pro, the same year the East Bay native will see the Raiders leave Oakland for Las Vegas.
“Man, that’s crazy,” Harris said. “It’s crazy how they’re taking everything out of Oakland. With everything going on out there, the kids can go to something right now. That’s sad right there.”
But, first, it’s time for at least one more ring.
Harris will be ready come Monday at Levi’s, home to the NFL team he roots for while halfway across the country. He expects to have plenty of family, friends and former coaches in attendance, but nothing like the reported hundreds who will be there for Tagovailoa.
“Never more than Tua,” Harris said with a laugh. “Never.”
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Antioch-Najee-Harris-Alabama-CFP-National-Championship-503972811.html.