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All-area football MVP Matt Harris a natural star

Harris didn't play football until eighth grade, but made up for lost time

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(Staff photo by Bill Ackerman)
Lyons Township's Matthew Harris straight-arms Downers Grove South's Alec Arvanitakis on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012.

Matt Harris didn’t start playing football until eighth grade, but you wouldn’t know it watching him in the Lyons Township uniform this fall. The two-way player is an obvious standout.

LT fans can thank current teammates Connor Onion and Luke Gallagher for getting Harris into football. Once he started, his supreme athleticism and sharp instincts took over. He played for a local team in Western Springs and two years later was playing on varsity for LT.

Harris credits the LT coaching staff, led by Kurt Weinberg, for helping him adjust quickly.

“I was playing both ways and I really had no clue what I was doing,” Harris said. “As the years went by me and the coaches got closer and closer. They’re a great coaching staff if not one of the best in the state. They’ve really impacted my life tremendously.”

After the Lions’ season ended in a Class 8A quarterfinal to eventual state champion Mount Carmel, members of Harris’ family made sure to say goodbye and hug many members of the LT coaching staff. It was a display of the family atmosphere the Lions promote.

After a memorable high school career, Harris is all set to play for Northwestern next year. He sees a similar atmosphere in the Wildcat program under coach Pat Fitzgerald.

“Fitz, he’s a great guy,” Harris said. “He’s definitely the type of coach that I want in my life and I’m honored to have him as the coach next year.”

Harris’ supreme athletic abilities also have been utilized as a track and field athlete. He is a three-time state finalist in the long jump, including a second-place finish last spring. That type of athleticism comes in handy when playing wide receiver and cornerback like Harris.

Northwestern doesn’t have a track team so Harris will have to drop the sport he has competed in since he was 8. He has no problem focusing on football.

“I think I’m OK with it,” Harris said. “It kind of works hand in hand. It’s working on speed with football.”

See the rest of the 2012 Cook County All-Area Football Team.

Matt HarrisYEAR SeniorSCHOOL Lyons Township Harris missed three games during the regular season so his overall numbers aren’t tops on the Lions, but his impact was made clear by his absence. The Lions were 2-4 before Harris’ return and won the next five games to make the Class 8A quarterfinals for the third year in a row. He totaled seven touchdowns on offense and had two more on defense.

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