Matthew Harris was never the most talented or biggest cornerback. But he shut down his side of the field and was always big for his efficiency.
Matthew Harris’ play was loud, mostly by its silence.
As a cornerback, Harris locked down one side of the field for much of his career. As Northwestern’s recruiting seemed to build a strong secondary — dubbing themselves the Sky Team ahead of the season — Harris was a technically sound cover corner that eliminated half the field for the offense. During the 2015 season with Nick VanHoose covering one end and Harris the other, teams simply had no passing options available.
This season marked his opportunity to be a leader of a great secondary. It was just never to be.
Harris has been out since Week Two of the season with a concussion. One of the best cornerbacks ever to come through Northwestern, facing the serious concerns of repeated concussions in his career, announced his retirement from football Monday.
“There are few things I love more than playing the game of football and the game has provided me with so many opportunities, including the chance to attend this University,” Harris said in a Northwestern press release. “It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and learn so many lessons. Northwestern has given me so much, I look forward to taking full advantage of my chance to give back to the world around me in the future.”
Harris’ defensive statistics are not much to look at — 115 career tackles and six interceptions (four last year). It was a stellar carer at Northwestern.
Where Harris came from and the opportunities football gave him to attend Northwestern are even more incredible, as Zach Pereles of InsideNU detailed in December.
Harris was always a player who did his work, did it quietly and made plays for his teammates. He was an incredible talent and a consistent player. He eliminated half the field nearly every game. And when teams did throw it his way, he made them pay.
Northwestern has started to gain a pretty solid recruiting foothold in the secondary now. The Wildcats are down several players in addition to Harris and still feel comfortable with the potential they have. Just look at the Kyle Queiro interception from Saturday against Indiana.
Harris though had a more transcendent way about him. He was a talent unlike anything else Northwestern has had. He was not a blinding athlete, he probably was not the strongest guy. But he just had a way of understanding and anticipating wide receivers, able to do just about everything to defend them.
His side of the field last year truly was “Harris Island.” Few teams found a way to crack him.
Harris’ career is something to celebrate for sure. He did not get the chance to put the bow on it that he perhaps deserved. The Wildcats have had to scramble to replace his production and, more importantly, his leadership.
Harris though will go on to do great things for himself and for his community. He is a truly incredible young man. Football was always just a means to an end for what he was destined to do in life.
Likely, his actions will speak louder than his words or his presence. He will be that person that does his job so efficiently well, no one notices how much he is dominating.