2018-07-11 / Sports

The newest member of the Rocket-to-Wolfpack brotherhood


N.C. State was there from the beginning for Person’s Josh Harris and he was there for the Pack Monday night.

Although he tried to manufacture a little suspense with the fakeout hat dance, it was no surprise when Harris picked up the red one with the stitched wolf and announced that he was going to N.C. State.

Harris was routinely making visits to Raleigh during the last couple of months and was preparing to make his announcement shortly after fellow defensive tackle prospect C.J. Clark from North Stanly High School committed to the Pack.

Harris dropped a few clues here and there on social media in the past few weeks, not sure if he even realized it, but the coup de grace came Monday morning when he wore an N.C. State T-shirt for football workouts at the high school.

N.C. State’s Dave Doeren was the first head coach to offer Harris, and after that, it was always the Pack’s recruiting battle to lose. I’m sure there were tense moments for the Wolfpack faithful, especially when the local airport starting getting customers like Ohio State’s Urban Mayer and Kirby Smart from Georgia dropping in for visits.

But in the end, N.C. State had something that only a handful of other schools could offer — a chance to play within shouting distance of Person County, his mom and his three brothers.

“It’s home,” Harris said. “My mom can come see me play every game. It was my first offer and I’ve been to every school in my top five, except for Ohio State and (N.C. State) was always where I felt I belonged.”

Harris will certainly not be the first Rocket football star to find his way to West Raleigh.

Keith Cartwright was scrambling to find a signal as he was on his way to the airport in Washington, D.C. early Monday evening.

The former Person football great was in the nation’s capital on business but had his mind on what was going on in the media center at his alma mater and hoping to catch the Facebook Live stream of Harris’s college announcement.

By the time he got the stream up and rolling, he saw exactly what he hoping. Harris will be joining a brotherhood of men who touched The Rock before running out on the Rocket Stadium field on Friday nights and played on Saturdays in front of howling fans at Carter-Finley.

That list is a deep, impressive group, with names like Clyde Hawley, Chip Thomas, Nate Goodson, Cartwright and recordsetting quarterback Jamie Barnette. One of Harris’s former teammates, Kennan Solomon is currently at N.C. State.

Cartwright, a 1997 graduate of Person, talked at length about how welcoming the environment was when he was being recruited by N.C. State and how, under Doeren, there’s a family reunion vibe when players from his day come around the program. He currently lives outside of Charlotte but was able to visit with Harris this spring when he was in Roxboro — and was impressed.

“He’s an amazing kid,” Cartwright said. “In the time I spent with him, I definitely wasn’t there to recruit him, I just wanted to meet him. You can see that he’s very grounded and down to earth. I told him that I would support him no matter where he went. I think you can see that he’s well on his way to being an amazing man. No matter if he plays 10 years in the NFL or goes right to work after he graduates, you can see he’s going to be a good man.”

That was a sentiment that has been echoed to me repeatedly in the last year or so, and something I’ve seen first-hand.

Josh is a just a different kind of dude.

My first real memory of him was as a freshman offensive lineman who coach Dave Kleine could not find just before halftime of a game. It was the final seconds of the first half and Person forced a turnover to unexpectedly give the offense the ball back. Kleine was looking all over for his tackle — but he was on the other side of the field with his tuba preparing to perform with the marching band at halftime.

Josh taught himself the piano, performs with the chorus and even played for Mayer when he came down for a recruiting visit.

I talk with Josh regularly when I’m at the school and one visit in particular stood out.

I was doing a photo shoot with him and his brother, Fred, for last season’s Fall Sports Preview and he asked me what I thought was an interesting question:

“What should I call you?”

I was puzzled, and I asked him what he meant. Josh replied that he didn’t want to be disrespectful, so he asked if I preferred to be called “Mr. Snow” or “Mr. Kelly”. Of course, I told him that just “Kelly” or “Snow” was perfectly fine, but practically every time I see him, he calls me “Mr. Kelly”.

“You just got to be around him,” Kleine said. “He’s a full-grown man at the age of 17, but we forget he’s only 17. You see the quirks that make him, him. He’s a really neat kid with genuine interests that aren’t typical of a teenager and it has a lot to do with his family and how tight-knit they are and his church community. You piece it all together, and you’re taken a back and you realize, he is the real deal.”

Monday was a proud moment for Josh, his family, Person High School and the community as a whole.

I have a good feeling he’ll continue to make us proud on Saturday’s in the fall starting in 2019.

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