Blue Valley senior A.J. Harris committed to Missouri in April.
He’s the latest in a long line of top-notch offensive line recruits from Kansas City that associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill has coaxed into joining the Tigers.
That group includes Harris’ former Blue Valley teammate Clay Rhodes, junior Evan Boehm (Lee’s Summit West), freshman Mike Fairchild (Blue Valley West) and freshman Kevin Pendleton (Lee’s Summit West).
Junior Adam Franklin (Raytown South/Missouri Western) and junior Kyle Starke (Liberty) also are on Missouri’s roster.
Harris — who said enjoys video games and fishing with his dad, Rick, when he’s not working out or playing football — plays left tackle for his high school’s Tigers, but expects to move inside, perhaps to center, in college.
Already, Harris — whose brother, Kirk, is set to be the starting right guard as a junior for Northern Iowa — long snaps for Blue Valley and has started doing some snapping drills.
If it work out, he’s eager to learn from Boehm, who made a similar transition after his freshman year at Missouri.
“He’s a good role model and, every single time I’ve been there, I could tell he’s a good leader,” Harris said. “Hopefully, I’d like to see him stay another year, so that when I go in he’d be a strong mentor for me.”
Here’s more from The Star’s chat with Harris — a 6-foot-3, 280-pound four-star recruit ranked No. 1 overall in Kansas and No. 19 in the nation at guard by Rivals — on Friday about his Missouri commitment:
Q: What made Missouri appealing for you?
Harris: “The biggest factor for me in choosing Missouri was that every single time I went down there, I really felt at home and I really felt welcome. It was a real family-oriented environment. Every single time I walked up there, coach (Gary) Pinkel walks up and gives me a hug. It’s stuff like that that really makes you feel at home and welcome. Then, I really loved the coaching staff. I was sad to see (former Tigers offensive line) coach (Bruce) Walker leave, but I’m really excited about (new offensive line) coach (A.J.) Ricker, because I’ve met him before. He recruited me at Illinois, so I know him pretty well now. It was all of that, but definitely the biggest factor was the family-oriented kind of style they have going on there. All the coaching staff and all the players really seem like they enjoy it there. They’re all really happy, so that was my biggest deciding factor.”
Q: Being a Kansas kid, did you take a lot of heat from friends about choosing Missouri?
Harris: “No, not really. Everybody just kind of congratulated me. I was lucky enough to escape all that.”
Q: Have you wavered at all about your commitment in the last five months?
Harris: “No, not at all. I really like it. It’s close to home. They were No. 1 in the nation last year, so they’re a top-notch program. They’re in the SEC. There’s not much that’s bad about Missouri.”
Q: Missouri’s had a good track record sending offensive linemen into the NFL. Ultimately, is the NFL your goal and can Missouri help you get there?
Harris: “Definitely, I think the NFL is one of my goals. It’s something I’ll put a lot of mindset on while I’m there. I’m just going to go there and put my work in. Hopefully, at the end of my four or five years, if that’s a possibility, I’d love to do that. I love coach Ricker. He’s a really good, up-and-coming coach and I definitely think he has the coaching abilities to push me to a whole other level.”
Q: By committing early, and I hear this a lot from kids who do it, does it feel like there’s been a weight lifted as you look toward your senior season?
Harris: “Definitely, there’s a lot of stress off my shoulders, so I can just worry about my final season of high school football. I don’t have to deal with this whole chaotic process of the recruiting process. Committing early was a great choice for me and it allows me to really focus on getting another state championship for my football team.”
Q: Do you think you’ll have a chance to play as a true freshman?
Harris: “I’m not sure. My goal would be, if Evan stays his senior year, to maybe go backup (to Boehm) and maybe try to sneak into that center spot once he graduates. That’s my goal, but I don’t know if it will happen.”
Hudl.com on A.J. Harris of Blue Valley