The product: OU's Nic Harris says the saying, 'It takes a village...' applies to him
NORMAN — When Nic Harris speaks, it’s not rare to hear him quote an inspirational saying or well-known catchphrase.
He uses many, but personifies only one.
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“You’ve heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a kid?’” Harris asked. “Well, I was that kid.”
Harris, Oklahoma’s junior starting free safety from Alexandria, La., was born in 1986 to a 17-year-old father and 16-year-old mother.
At their young ages, they could not provide a conventional home life, so Harris found himself shuttled from house to house among his family and friends.
“Neither of them would step up to the plate to take care of their son,” Harris said. “I was bounced around enough that it wasn’t really steady or stable.
“In and out of schools every year. I didn’t have a bed to really call my own for a good part of my life.”
He was never technically in foster care — “my family was too strong to let that happen,” he said — but he didn’t have one place that was home, either.
Eventually, he was raised by LaQuanda Harrell, a woman he calls his stepmother. She was never married to his father, but did give birth to one of Harris’ eight siblings.
Harris admits growing up the way he did seemed tough at times.
“But I never asked the question, ‘why me?’“ he said. “Why not me? Who am I? Why am I so special that this shouldn’t be happening to me?
“I always thought about how there were people on the other side of the world who didn’t have food to eat. At least I had food to eat, clothes on my back and a roof over my head.”
Outwardly, Harris doesn’t show animosity toward his parents, but he knows how their actions deprived him.
“There’s nothing you can really have — something I didn’t experience — like a mother’s love or a father’s love,” he said. “Or someone to tell you everything’s gonna be alright.”
Yet he never paid attention to what he didn’t have. Instead, he enjoyed what he did have, soaking up the unconditional love his grandparents — Shirley and Emanuel Hayes on his father’s side, Charlie and Hattie Harris on his mother’s side — gave him.
“Going back and forth from house to house, seeing different ways of life — in the end, it made me out to be a better person,” he said. “I thank my grandparents to the utmost for being there for me when they didn’t have to be. I wasn’t technically their child, but they chose to treat me like I was.”
‘IF NOT ME, THEN WHO?’
While Harris credits his grandparents for keeping him focused in his early years, he deserves a lot of the credit himself.
“Being the oldest of nine, it helps you grow up extremely fast,” he said. “You have to mature extremely fast.
“You’ve got to lead by example. Talking can only go so far. Having them come to the games and look at you as a role model, as a positive example, it’s a lot of pressure.
“But if not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”
Sayings like that are the fabric of his thoughts and his speech. He often quotes Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali, his two favorite athletes.
“The greatest of the great,” he calls them. “In order for you to be great, you’ve got to believe that you’re great. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
The phrases serve to keep him grounded, to keep him focused. And most of all, to keep him motivated.
“I feel if you don’t have motivation, you don’t live. You just merely exist,” he said. “You have to be motivated toward something.”
His favorite saying?
“If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,” he said.
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