Anthony Harris: Positive Influence On and Off the Field
Sept. 24, 2014
By Andy Fledderjohann, Athletics Media Relations
The awards and honors have piled up for Anthony Harris.
National leader in interceptions.
But on the never-ending pile of plaudits, one may stand above the rest for Harris – and it’s not even for his accomplishments on the football field:
the Gray-Carrington Memorial Scholarship.
The award is one of the highest honors bestowed on any student at the University of Virginia.
Established in 1971 in memory of Arthur P. “Pete” Gray IV and expanded in 1987 to honor Edward C. Carrington Jr., the award honors students who excel in personal integrity, achievement, leadership and humility.
In other words, all the qualities that embody Harris.
A native of Chesterfield, Va., just outside of Richmond, Harris has evolved into one of the premier safeties in the nation over the course of his four years at UVa, but that is just a small part of what makes him great. The Gray-Carrington Award epitomizes the man that Harris has become.
“Coming here and being named an All-American is great, but when I earned one of the top awards for personality and character, it really hit me in a spot that none of the other awards did,” Harris said. “It meant a lot that someone took notice that, even though I was doing well on the field, they saw how I was acting in the community. It just says a lot that they recognized me as not only a great player but a great person.”
Harris emerged as the Gray-Carrington Award honoree following a long, thorough process that started with an anonymous nomination last November.
“They gather information from close friends, your classmates and peers, some of the people who come in contact with you to check out your personality,” Harris said. “You go through the process and they get a feel for who you are as a person. They look at your leadership and your involvement around Grounds.”
After the nomination, Harris went through the vetting process, including a meet-and-greet with family and friends of Pete Gray and Ed Carrington and interviews with the Board of Trustees. Once seven finalists were selected, Harris was picked by the selection committee as the 2014 honoree.
“For me personally to win the award, it meant a lot for me to be able to accomplish something outside football and academics, to be recognized for who I am as a person,” Harris said.
Harris maintains a busy lifestyle at UVa. In addition to his day-to-day obligations with the football program, Harris maintains a full course load and is heavily involved in UVa’s Student-Athlete Mentors program (SAMs). He also is a part of the M Society. Through football and his off-the-field involvement, Harris’ impact also has stretched into the community.
“Through the football program, we have been involved in Boys and Girls Club trips, visits to the children’s hospital and doing the bone marrow blood drives,” Harris said. “With the SAMs committee, we do social interaction awareness as far as being a student-athlete and blending into the community. With M Society, there are numerous things we do on Grounds, such as making awareness for different civil rights and for ethnicities that don’t get as much publicity.”
Harris had plenty of support from a young age to help put him on the right path to where he is today, including his mother, Delerita, sister, Charita and an older cousin, Rondell Seaborne.
“I’ve always had a good network and social circle around me that have been there to guide me. My mother and sister have been there the whole way, pushing me toward education and doing the right thing in life and setting the first foot forward as far as first impressions and striving for the best.
“Rondell has always been pushing me to work hard, be the best person I can be and never take a day off. He’s always pushed me to be well rounded at everything you do and give yourself more than one option. I’ve taken that and applied it more than just to athletics but to my life as well, just never closing doors because you never know when you may have to go back through them.”
Harris’ family support is a big reason why he is still at UVa today. Following a terrific junior season in which he recorded an NCAA-best eight interceptions and earned All-America honors, Harris faced a decision of whether to return for his senior year or enter the NFL Draft. Now just nine credits away from graduating, Harris chose to finish what he started and complete his sociology degree this fall.
“Coming at UVa, I wanted to get a degree and gain some success on the field,” Harris said. One of my main reasons for coming back was to pursue my education and finish my degree and so I have something to fall back on for life after football. I’ve accomplished a lot of high accolades and set a few records, but I feel my main goal of helping this team succeed isn’t complete until my time here is up, so me leaving a year early would be leaving it unfinished. I came in with a lot of great guys, so with this last opportunity it felt right for me to finish my classes and do what I can to help this team be successful this year and in the future.”
When his football career is complete, the sociology major wants to mentor youth. Harris already has proven to be quite the mentor for his current teammates.
“Anthony is a leader on the field and an extension of Coach (Jon) Tenuta in terms of the schemes,” Virginia head coach Mike London said. “He’s constantly communicating to all the other players, and he’s a selfless player. Those are some attributes that make Anthony an outstanding individual, and I believe one of the best safeties in the country.”
As Harris heads into the first game of the final chapter of his Virginia career, he looks back with pride but also can look forward to the big things that are ahead, both in football and after his career concludes.
“To look back and reflect at how far I’ve come and some of the accomplishments, not only on the field but excelling in the classroom, it is humbling,” Harris said. “I’ve been recognized for one of the highest awards at the University as far as character and integrity, been involved in the M Society and branched outside the normal circle of athletes to meet new people and build genuine relationships here. That will allow me to branch off into different fields and utilize some of the skills from my degree and be able to give back.”