Jay Harper is settling in to being a college athlete and his new home in Wisconsin

Published 12:15 pm Saturday, June 22, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Jay Harper left a huge impact on Valley High School as both a football player and a basketball player. Now, Harper has moved on to his new home. 

Harper and his family arrived in Madison, Wisconsin on June 9. The family drove over 900 miles to see him off as he embarked on his new journey at the University of Wisconsin. Most new college students have their families there to send them off, but few athletes get the same privilege. 

“It was a real long one. Had to get some family time in for one of the last times,” Harper said. “It was great for them to just come, move me in and help me get settled in.” 

Email newsletter signup

Harper arrived on campus as a brand-new face to the area. Harper grew up and spent the entirety of his life in Chambers County. Now, he had to learn how to adjust to the new area and build new relationships. 

Harper had built close friendships while he wore the Valley uniform. In fact, many claimed it was more like a brotherhood. Harper now has similar friendships in Wisconsin even though it is still early on in his college journey. 

“We do everything together,” Harper said about his relationship with the other freshmen. “We work out, go out to eat, we just bond with each other and hang out in each other’s rooms… Now, I got new brothers. They’re just like my brothers at home.” 

Harper has been quickly thrust into the football life at Wisconsin. Throughout the week the team works out, watches film, eats together and competes in 7-on-7s on Wednesday. Harper has been readily adjusting to all the differences with being a college athlete. 

One major adjustment that Harper had to make early on was learning how to be in a college training program. Wisconsin’s intensity in the weight room greatly differs from what Harper experienced at the high school level. 

“It’s really intense,” Harper said. “The intensity is up, everybody is fired up and we get after it in the weight room. It’s kind of newer to me, but I’m adjusting well. They’re putting a lot of weight on me. That was a big adjustment. I had to get with it and just get excited to work out every morning.” 

The offseason has just begun for Wisconsin’s football program, but Harper is starting to figure out where he can fit as a freshman. Harper will be playing his natural position of corner and he is working to continue getting reps at each practice. 

The Badgers are also looking to play Harper on Special Teams. He was a dynamic return specialist in high school, and he could have an opportunity to fill that role for Wisconsin early on. 

“I’m playing field corner, I’m just trying to get in and get some reps,” Harper said. “I’m on special teams right now. I’m just trying to help in any way possible. I’m just trying to be productive and get on the field.” 

“I plan to be a good returner for the team and just go out there and show that I can make some plays,” Harper said. 

The Badgers are expected to have one of the best-returning secondaries this season. At cornerback, Ricardo Hallman is expected to be an early draft pick. Wisconsin has a wealth of experience throughout the secondary. 

Harper is taking the opportunity to learn from all of that experience. Hallman and RJ Delancy III have already started to take him under their wings. Harper is trying to just take in all of their knowledge and take advantage of every opportunity. 

“It’s a whole lot of experience out here,” Harper said. “Ricardo Hallman, probably a first-round draft pick, led the nation in interceptions. I’m just sitting behind him and a couple of the other older guys and they’re teaching me the ways. They’re teaching me the little techniques and helping me learn the playbook. I’m just trying to soak it in so that when my name gets called, I can go out there and perform.” 

Harper is not the only Valley football player at the next level. Cam Dooley has been adjusting to life at Kentucky, Brandon Thomas is at the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Ian Crim-Davis is at Morehouse. The four graduated together and were like brothers. Even at college, the group share each other’s film and give critiques while also being fans from afar.  

“I’ve got to root for my team, but when I’m not playing I’m rooting for them,” Harper said. “Whoever they’re playing against, I’m going against them too. That’s how I feel.” 

Like every college student, Harper has begun to learn how to live on his own while also having the added newness of being a college athlete. 

Harper wears the pride of Valley on his back. Few people have shown their love for and supported Valley as much as the Harper family. Jay hopes to continue making his hometown proud and inspire those looking up to him. 

“It’s really important to me,” Harper said. “I just want everybody to know that if I did it, they can do it too. I’m just trying to rep the Valley and make the Valley known around the world.”