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Khari Harding and the Signing Day story behind a father's smile

COMMENTARY — Six years after his father brought him out of a bad situation and back to Oklahoma, Khari Harding is preparing to leave again — this time on a scholarship to Auburn University.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 6, 2013

EDMOND — Corie Harding leaned over his son's shoulder, watched him scrawl his name on a piece of paper and beamed.

He couldn't have smiled any bigger.

On Signing Day as hundreds of kids around the state inked national letters of intent to play college sports, lots of parents looked like Corie Harding did Wednesday afternoon at Edmond Santa Fe High School. They, too, had wide eyes and huge grins.

None, though, had a story quite like Corie and son Khari.

“I'm very proud of him for all that he's been through and all the things that I've been through,” Corie said after Khari signed to play football at Auburn.

What Khari went through has been documented but is still shocking in its details. Six years ago, he was living with his mom and two sisters in a one-bed hotel room in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It was their home for six months after his mom got divorced. Even though they had a roof over their heads, they didn't have much else. Little food. Few clothes. No transportation.

At the behest of a concerned grandmother, Corie went to Texas to bring his son back to Oklahoma. The state in which he found Khari shocked him.

All Khari brought with him were the clothes he had on — a tank top, a pair of shorts and size-9 shoes.

When they went to buy him some more clothes, they discovered that Khari needed size-12 shoes.

“It was rough,” Corie said of the transition. “But I've seen him grown. Every year, I've seen a positive.”

Much of it came from tough love. Corie was strict with Khari. Do your homework. Wash the dishes. Clean your room.

But somewhere amidst those demands, the two became best friends.

Father and son watched in awe as recruiters beat a path to their door. Khari, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety, had about a dozen scholarship offers and his choice of big-time schools.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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