Valley High’s Harper taking recruiting process step-by-step

Published 11:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

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By: Pacey Strickland

As soon as basketball ended for Valley High School defensive back Jay Harper, he was on the road taking visits and fielding football offers from prospective schools.

Since Harper and the Valley basketball team defeated Charles Henderson to claim the Class 5A state championship last month, Harper has visited five Power Five schools, four being in the SEC.

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“People have been trying to get me to come everywhere, I still need to go visit Missouri and Texas A&M,” Harper said in a recent interview. “Me and my parents have just been on tour basically since basketball season.”

As a multi-sport athlete, Harper’s work on the football field is largely influenced by his experience on the basketball court. At one point, his dream was to go to the NBA. Now, he uses his basketball skills to improve his ability as a defensive back.

“With basketball you know you have to play defense and move your feet,” Harper said. “When I am playing DB, I just think of myself playing basketball, I have been doing that my whole life.”

Harper is currently rated as a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and has racked up 14 total offers. With many options on the table, Harper said the process can become much more daunting.

“It’s real hard for me to decide,” Harper said. “I will have that top five list out within the next month or so.”

Although Harper has not officially narrowed down his list of schools yet, he did say that a few schools were standing out, with Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Kentucky being among those that have offered him scholarships. All three schools have been recruiting him heavily, with Kentucky being his first Power Five offer.

Harper has already visited each school and spoke highly about each. Harper said that he “has a good relationship” with Mississippi State’s cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath. Harper also said that he enjoyed the fans and atmosphere in Knoxville.

There are still some other schools that could be in the mix to land Harper, with the defensive back recently taking visits to Florida, Clemson and Alabama. Harper said that the facilities at Alabama were like no other and marveled at the chance to watch NFL-caliber players in practice.

“At Florida, I got to talk to the head coach (Billy) Napier, and he was telling me how they like me and would continue to recruit me,” Harper said.

During the recruitment process, one Valley High School football legend has been crucial with his recruitment to Clemson.

“Coach Lemanski Hall is one of the legends at Valley High School, so he got me up there, and they have been recruiting me,” Harper said.

Hall, who graduated from Valley in 1988, excelled on both sides of the ball for the Rams. In his senior season, he totaled 20 total touchdowns on offense and 20 interceptions on defense.

Hall went on to play at Alabama, where he won a national championship in 1992.

After nine seasons in the NFL, Hall began his coaching career with Clemson in 2015 and has served as defensive ends coach since 2018.

Even with the opportunities on the table, Harper still is not getting complacent in his work ethic and constant improvement. Harper is working on taking the next step in his development physically and as a leader.

“I’m just working on getting faster and stronger,” Harper said. “If you want to play in college, you have to be able to run faster and tackle with the best. I used to just lead by example, but I will definitely have to be a little more vocal this year.”