Triston Harris was ready to move on with his post-football life in 2020.
He tore an Achilles tendon that year and graduated with a BSc in Biology from Towson University in the fall. Then he changed his mind.
The former standout at Dover (Del.) High School wasn’t quite ready to hang up his boots. He knew he had some eligibility remaining due to an ACL tear suffered in 2018 and the extra year the NCAA gave athletes following the coronavirus pandemic. So Harris decided to try football again while pursuing a master’s degree.
The question was… where?
Harris knew he wanted to stay close to home, so he emailed coaches at schools near his home in Delaware. One of those emails was sent in early August to Widener, who had recruited him out of high school under then-coach Mike Kelly.
“I saw that they had a good masters program, so I decided to pursue my masters and use the remaining years of my eligibility,” said Harris, who is pursuing an MBA in healthcare management. .
The email arrived in Head Coach Mike Barainyak’s inbox a week before training camp opened.
“He said, ‘Hey, my name is Triston Harris, I’m a Dover, Delaware quarterback,” ”Barainyak recalls. “I played Towson and got accepted into Widener’s graduate program, can I be on the football team in any way? I just said, ‘Of course you have your acceptance, go up and introduce yourself.’ It came. We had a good conversation. He expressed his interest in playing because he didn’t have many opportunities to enter the pitch at Towson because he tore his knee, tore his Achilles tendon and has graduated. I was like, “Hey man, camp starts in a week, if you can get your shot, your application form and your fitness and stuff, come to camp and we’ll try. “
Harris was there for the first day of camp and it didn’t take long for Barainyak to realize he had a diamond in the rough.
“I see this guy, 6-1, 200 pounds and he’s whipping the ball,” Barainyak said. “He was very talented. You can see why he was a replacement for Towson and could hang on to that level.
Two months later, Harris will make his third quarterback start and play in his sixth game when the Pride (5-1 overall, 3-1 MAC) takes on Wilkes (5-0, 4-0) in the ‘a key conference showdown on Saturday at Stade Rapide (1 p.m.).
It took a little while for Harris to familiarize himself with his new surroundings, but he was solid for the pride, despite a left wrist injury that knocked him out of one game and set him back in three more. .
In five games, however, Harris is ranked third at the MAC in passing efficiency (136.9), fourth in completion percentage (59.8), fifth in passing yards per game (194.0 ), tied for fifth in passing touchdowns (eight), sixth in total passing yards (970) and total offense (202.0 yards per game). He pitched for a career-high 316 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over Alvernia.
“I feel so much more comfortable now,” said Harris. “The simple fact that the coaches believe in me and the guys next to me believe in me and get more reps and actually play football live, I just feel more and more comfortable every day.”
Harris didn’t play Towson much. He saw the action in just two games. He came off the bench and threw for 153 yards and ran for 22 more in a 23-3 loss to No.13 Richmond in 2017. He had two carries for 19 yards in a game against Bucknell in 2019 That was the extent of his playing time with the Tigers.
“I think I made a good choice,” said Harris. “I was lucky to have Coach B and all the coaches here welcome me with open arms because I just wanted to play anywhere. I am in the best shape of my life. I am healthy and grateful to be here.
Villanova to Albany, 3:30
This could be a trick game for the No.6 / 5 Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 CAA), who are ranked sixth in the STATS Preform Top 25 and No.5 in the AFCA poll. Villanova is on a 28-27 loss to No. 3/2 James Madison and hosts No. 12/14 and undefeated Rhode Island in a key conference showdown next week.
This is the third straight game on the road for the Wildcats and the Great Danes (0-5, 0-3) are in trouble. They rank last in the conference for score (16.6 points per game) and 10th for total defense (390.8). Villanova leads the limited series between the teams, 3-1, but the Danes won the last meeting in Albany in 2017 (19-10). The Wildcats, however, have been strong on the outside. They are 14-10 on the road in all five seasons under Mark Ferrante.
Sixth-year running back Justin Covington needs five yards to become the fifth player in Villanova history to run for 2,000 career yards. Fifth-year linebacker Forrest Rhyne was named CAA Defensive Player of the Week after posting a career-high 20 tackles in the win over JMU.
New Jersey Warriors at Williamson, noon
This is a rematch of Williamson’s first game of the season won by the Mechanics, 35-26. The Warriors are 1-5 with their only forfeit win over Salisbury JV last week.
Williamson (3-1) rebounded from his only loss of the season with a 20-6 victory over the CAPP Academy. In that game, Anthony Ellis (Sun Valley) had two touchdowns and Chris Meikeleohn (Marple Newtown) punctuated the defense with six tackles, including a sack. Joe Kelly (Cardinal O’Hara) recorded two more sacks at seven.