ATLANTA — Marvin Harrison Jr. is very good at catching footballs. But there was a time when he dreamed of shooting basketballs.
It wasn’t until he was in high school that he decided football would be his main sport.
“At first I wanted to play basketball. Basketball was my first love. Then my love for football kind of grew. It was probably about high school when I figured out I wanted to play football,” the Ohio State wide receiver said on Thursday before the No. 4 Buckeyes went through their next-to-last practice before playing No. 1 Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday night.
Ryan Day, his teammates and Ohio State fans are glad Harrison made that decision. Opposing defenses probably would prefer he’d spent more time working on his crossover dribble.
Harrison, an All-American as a sophomore in his first year as a starter, has 72 catches for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
He has caught at least three passes in every game this season. He had 10 catches for 185 yards against Penn State, 7 catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas State and 7 catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan State.
The number of those receptions which would be considered spectacular is in double figures.
“He can really catch any ball you give to him,” OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud said on Thursday.
Ohio State’s No. 2 quarterback Kyle McCord has seen Harrison’s other-worldly ability since high school when they led St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia to three consecutive state championships.
“He’s been making crazy catches like that since we were 15 or 16 years old. In high school he was doing crazy things like that. He would go up and make a one-handed catch over two defenders and then run back to the huddle like nothing happened. He’s been doing that for as long as I can remember,”
Kirk Herbstreit and others have called a catch Harrison made against Indiana his best of the season.
It went for 12 yards and didn’t produce a touchdown, but it was Harrison’s ability to twist his body in a manner that would make an Olympic gymnast envious which made the catch exceptional.
He adjusted in mid-air to plant his right foot in bounds, then at the same time pulled his left foot up to make sure the catch counted.
“When you find special player they have talent that is God given. Marvin did not earn that talent. R.J. Day (the coach’s son) is not going to have that talent. But Marvin does,” Day said.
“I think what makes Marvin special is his discipline and his skill. He has built a tremendous amount of discipline in his life. He takes care of his body. He prepares at a high level. He has an incredible amount of discipline in how he runs his routes. His work ethic is unbelievable.
“He’s one of the hardest workers on our team. If you’d ask our guys they’d say he’s one of the top one or two hardest workers on our team. When you put all that together, you get a special player,” he said.
“There was a point during the season, I think it was around midnight, and someone said to me, ‘Coach, I think there are only a few people in the building (Ohio State’s Woody Hayes Center) – you, a couple of the assistant coaches and Marvin. I said, ‘Get Marvin home, he needs some rest.’ ” But that’s just who he is and that’s what makes him special.”
McCord said, “The work showed in high school with three state championships back to back. His work ethic is off the charts and it has only ramped up since he’s been here.”
With Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison as his father, some people might have thought the younger Harrison felt parental pressure to choose football. But he said that is not what happened.
“I always had somebody I could look up to, somebody I could talk to about the game and learn. He didn’t really pressure me to play football. If I had wanted to play basketball he would have been just as supportive of it. I’d have had him in my corner and have his blessing,” Harrison said about his famous father.
• Williams at practice: Running back Miyan Williams was at practice Thursday. He missed practice on Wednesday because of what Day described as “a stomach bug.”
With TreVeyon Henderson unavailable because of recent foot surgery, Williams’ availability on Saturday night is very important for OSU. Williams did not play in Ohio State’s next-to-last regular-season game at Maryland and was limited to 34 yards on 8 carries in a 45-23 loss to Michigan because of a sprained ankle.
• Jones update: Starting offensive guard Matthew Jones, who did not play against Michigan because of a foot injury said he’s ready to go on Saturday night against Georgia.
• Georgia injuries: Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, “We’re hopeful both of them can play,” when asked about the status of the Bulldogs’ ‘s top wide receiver Ladd McConkey (knee) and starting right tackle Warren McClendon (MCL). Both were injured in the SEC championship game.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.