BOONE — Mitchell Harris was a part of some of the most successful Watauga teams in the last 20 years.
Harris played tight end and defensive end for the 2006 Pioneers, who reached the state 4-A Western Regional finals. Watauga did not win the Northwestern Conference championship as A.C. Reynolds won the title.
But the Pioneers beat Reynolds 24-23 in the third round of the playoffs, giving Watauga its first win over the Rockets at the time.
“A.C. Reynolds, the first time we lost to them, it was a big blow,” Harris remembered. “We knew what we were up against. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. We ended up not bringing our ‘A’ game and ended up getting our butts stomped. That next game in the playoffs, we were fired up. There was no other feeling like we’ve got it this time. We’re not losing this game, and we got the ‘W’.”
Harris, now 28-years old, remembered the elation he got when Savva Kostis made the go-ahead field ago, and then remembered when A.C. Reynolds lined up for his eventual missed field goal that preserved the Pioneers’ win.
“Please miss,” Harris remembered hoping at the time. “Please miss because I was so tired. We gave it our all, both the coaches and the players.”
Harris would like to do the same for the High Country Grizzlies, Boone’s indoor football team. Harris, primarily a linebacker, was signed to the team after the Grizzlies’ tryout practice in December.
“I want to help bring something to this town that this town deserves and that’s great football,” Harris said. “We’ve got App State, great football. Why not take it to another level? I feel like we’re really going do that. My expectation is to bring a championship and keep them coming in.”
Harris’ football experience is all on the 100-yard field. After graduating from Watauga, he spent a year playing football at Catawba College, but suffered a wrist injury.
Harris eventually left school to start a family. He currently lives in Hendersonville with his wife, daughter and son, and currently works with a communications company.
Even as regular life set in, Harris still craved to be on the football field. He played semi-pro football for a number of teams, including the Rutherfordton Raiders, and heard about the Grizzlies.
It was a chance for Harris to return to the field, even though that field is indoors and only 50-yards long.
“I’ve always loved the game so much and never really felt I lost my talent,” Harris said. “I felt like I’ve gotten even better. Not being in school like that, being able to focus on my training, with different people and different methods, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of great people. It made me a better player and a better man.”
Grizzlies head coach Josh Resignalo found Harris at the December tryout after Harris could not make the first one. Resignalo said that not every available player has a resume with NFL or other professional experience, but that doesn’t mean that a little known player can’t help the Grizzlies’ roster.
“For guys like that, you want to help those guys,” Resignalo said. “You want to give them the opportunity. They may have come from a smaller school and really didn’t have the push or the right support group around them that helped push them. Then they get stuck in a rut doing the semipro stuff and can’t really get to the next step to go on to the next level, so that’s why I love the tryouts. You never know who you’re going to find.”
Resignalo feels he found a player in Harris who can play linebacker, fullback and maybe some defensive line. He said that versatility can only help Harris’ chances of making the Grizzlies’ roster.
They’ll both find out when training camp begins on Feb. 28. The Grizzlies report for camp on Feb. 26.
“He’s a guy who can play multiple positions,” Resignalo said. “That’s huge for a guy when you’re to make a roster,” Resignalo said. “They can help out by playing multiple positions, especially when you’re carrying 21 (players). You want guys who can play more than one spot.”
Harris has never played indoor football, but has tried to catch up with the rules by watching film and talking to peers who have played the indoor game.
“I’ve done studies. I’ve researched and watched several videos,” Harris said. “A couple of guys I went to college with have been playing arena ball for years, so I just asked questions and tried to learn as much as I can.”
Harris knows there are players on the Grizzlies’ roster who would like to use this season as a way to get back to the NFL. For Harris, playing on the next level would be great, but he feels life is good with his family and current situation.
“Some of these guys are trying to make it to another level and if it happens, then that’s great,” Harris said. “I’m just going to go out there and do what I know to do and continue to grow and help build the best team I can. If it happens, great — I’ll ride the train. If not, I’m going to hold my head high. I’ve still got my children who I need to care for.”