Bill Hass on the ACC: Just Call Him Macho Harris and Watch Him Change a Game
Dec. 3, 2008
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's a simple creed but one that fits perfectly for Macho Harris.
"When the opportunity arises, what are you going to do?" he said. "Are you going to freeze or are you going to make a play and be a game-changer?"
Anyone who has seen the Virginia Tech senior play knows what his answer is. He has delivered the kind of performance that has helped the Hokies to the ACC Championship Game for the second straight year and the third time in his four seasons.
Virginia Tech will play Boston College at 1 p.m. Saturday in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., a rematch of last year's title game won by the Hokies in Jacksonville.
Harris' primary position is cornerback, but he also plays wide receiver and returns punts. It was that kind of versatility at Highland Springs, Va., High School that caught the eye of Hokies coach Frank Beamer.
"I remember the night I went to see him play," Beamer said. "He scored three or four different ways - an interception return for a touchdown, a tailback run for a touchdown, a punt return. He is really a good player."
Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski is impressed with Harris' many roles.
"He does everything for them," Jagodzinski said. "He makes things happen when the ball is in his hands. All the things that he can do speak for his talent. We're aware when he's in the game (on offense). They use him really well and they use him on decoys, too."
Before we go any further, let's clear up this name thing. He's listed as Victor "Macho" Harris in Virginia Tech releases and his given name is Victor Lorne Harris, Jr. But as far as he's concerned, there's just one thing to call him - Macho.
"I've had the name all my life, ever since I was a kid," Harris said. "I got it from my dad. He didn't want to name me a just regular name; he wanted to name me a masculine name. He came up with Macho and it stuck with me ever since. I don't ever remember, not one time, somebody calling me Victor. Not my Mom or my family. Nobody called me that."
Harris said classmates, if they aren't aware of who he is, might see his name on the class rolls and call him Victor.
"But when they find out who I am, they call me Macho by the end of the day," he said.
Over his career, opposing coaches have gotten to know him by that name, too.
"He's very athletic, he's got excellent instincts, he's got a real feel for the game and he lives up to his name - he's the Macho Man," said Virginia coach Al Groh. "He plays with a lot of bravado, which he has certainly earned.
"He's aggressive and quite obviously is a very confident player. That confidence, I'm sure, is bolstered by the amount of times when he's gone for a play and it has turned out to his advantage."
Harris enjoys his various roles, which means that his time is divided in practice. He spends most of it with the defense, but on various days will also practice with the offense and with special teams, which are under the watchful eye of Beamer.
So far this season Harris has rushed for five times 48 yards and caught eight passes for 63 more. He has returned 20 punts for an average of 10.3 yards.
Whatever he's asked to do - and Beamer would love to use him more often on kickoff returns but doesn't want to wear him out - Harris embraces the task and says he doesn't have a favorite.
"I really do feel blessed," Harris said. "Coming out of high school, the coaches knew what I was capable of doing. They told me I was going to be given a chance to play on offense and special teams, too.
"To be honest with you, all of this is fun for me. I love this game of football. I tell the coaches I'll do anything to help the team, and it's given me the opportunity to do something I really love."
Each assignment calls for something different from a mental standpoint.
"On defense you've got to be a stud, to be on an island out there by yourself and have a certain kind of confidence to knock a receiver down," Harris said. "Not everybody can play that position.
"Then you go over to the offensive side and you've got to have the kind of confidence that nobody can slow you down, and that's how I go out there. (As for) special teams, it's called special teams for a reason - you go out there and make special things happens."
When it comes down to the final analysis, playing defense is what sets Harris apart. Just named to the All-ACC first team on defense, Harris has six interceptions this season and has returned them for 142 yards and two touchdowns. In his career he has 15 picks and returned four for scores.
"I think he's probably the best corner in this league," Jagodzinski said.
Harris made a transition on defense this season, moving from what the Hokies call the "field corner" to the "boundary corner." He explained that the field corner is more of a coverage man who plays more in a zone. Harris played there because the Hokies had standout Brandon Flowers at the boundary corner for three years.
But after Flowers left for the NFL following his junior year, Harris was a natural choice for that spot.
"The boundary corner gets all the action because he can play in the box, he blitzes and he's in man-to-man the majority of the game," he explained. "It's a very physical game playing that boundary corner.
"Playing the field corner, you might be playing your zone and nothing comes your way. At the boundary corner, you might be playing in the box and have a big running back coming your way. You just go out there and play loose and do what you're coached to do, which is go make plays."
If Virginia Tech is to repeat as the ACC champion, Harris will no doubt be in the middle of things. In his first experience in a title game, in 2005, he was a freshman who played special teams in a loss to Florida State. Last season, as a junior, he made five tackles in the win over Boston College. It was the first championship he had tasted since his final year playing ball in recreation league.
"When we lost the one to Florida State, I was like `we were so close,'" Harris recalled. "And then we came back last year and it was like we were going to treasure this moment and do whatever we can to get it. That team last year was something great, and I think this team we've got here right now is great, too.
"We've scrapped for everything we've gotten. There wasn't anything that was given to us. We had to earn everything. We had some rough times and we dealt with some adversity, but we hung in there and we kept believing. Like coach said, good things happen to those who wait and to those who work hard and believe."
Harris has just two games left with Virginia Tech, this one and a bowl game. Before the Hokies' game against Duke on Nov. 22, a teammate asked how he would react to the waning days of his college career.
"I said, `we'll see,'" Harris recalled. "And he said, `what you leave out there will be how you want them to remember you.' That hit home right there. After a guy saying that, why wouldn't you leave it on the line?"
So if the opportunity arises to make a big play this Saturday, Macho Harris can freeze or be a game-changer. There's no doubt which one he'll do.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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