EDMOND — Khari Harding missed half his games, was perpetually hungry and ran around in painfully undersized shoes his first season on a football team.
“I didn't have rides to get there,” Harding said.
Today, the standout Edmond Santa Fe safety holds eight NCAA Division I scholarship offers and is one of the top college football prospects in Oklahoma.
Rides, food and footwear haven't been a problem since five summers ago, when his dad drove to Texas and saved him from what had become unacceptable living conditions.
Khari Harding, his mother and two sisters had stayed in a one-bed hotel room near Dallas for the previous six months.
“We didn't have any money,” Khari Harding said. “My mom had just gotten divorced.”
A concerned grandmother called Corie Harding and asked him to intervene.
Corie had seen his son on occasion but was appalled when they came face-to-face that day.
“It was nothing like when I had seen him before,” Corie Harding said.
Khari Harding left that hotel with nothing but a tank top, a pair of shorts, an unkempt Afro hairdo and size-9 tennis shoes.
Steve and Barry's clothing store at the Gainesville Outlet mall was still open then, and Corie Harding took his son to get a new wardrobe.
A store salesman measured Khari's feet and discovered his correct shoe size was 12.
“His feet were all cramped up,” Corie Harding said. “It was a pretty bad sight.”
The transition for both father and son was a tough one at first as they adjusted to their new situation.
“Some of the things he could do down there, he thought he could do up here,” Corie Harding said. “I'm a strict disciplinarian.”
Suddenly for Khari, cleaning his room, washing dishes, finishing homework and regular haircuts were requirements.
Food was also an adjustment for both Corie and Khari.
“I didn't have a lot of money, and I'd go buy food for us,” Corie Harding said. “I'd come home, and it was all gone.”
Khari Harding had nourishment at home for the first time in years and took full advantage of it.