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Once a defensive standout, Rattlers’ Harrington reinvents himself as WR

Jarrod Harrington was a standout defensive back in high school but has found success as a receiver in college and in the Indoor Football League. (Cronkite Sports/Kynan Marlin)

MESA, Ariz. – Jarrod Harrington was once known as an all-state defensive back. These days he is one of the Indoor Football League’s top receivers.

Credit a pair of savvy colleges coaches with seeing his potential.

The 12-0 Arizona Rattlers have two regular season games remaining on their schedule before the playoffs. Harrington’s performance – 14 touchdowns and 645 receiving yards – has played a big part in the Rattlers’ explosive offense as the team currently holds the postseason’s No. 1 seed.

His football stature (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) might not suggest someone who would put on an offensive show, but his style of play says otherwise.

It’s been quite the journey.

Harrington attended Boyle County (Ky.) High, a program that won eight Kentucky High School Athletic Association state championships. His sophomore and junior seasons saw the Rebels lifting the trophy as Harrington played primarily on the defensive side of the ball.

During his time at Boyle County, Harrington attended football camps at Campbellsville University, a private Kentucky school of about 4,000, and quickly caught the attention of coaches. Offensive coordinator Rick Gehres and head coach Perry Thomas were impressed with Harrington but thought that his size and style of play would be better suited for the offensive side of the ball.

“I was looking at him from a very early age as a receiver for me even though he played and was all-state (defensive back) for Boyle County,” Gehres said. “I wanted to bring him in offensively.”

Thomas thought he would be better suited for offensive because of “the way he attacks the football and just made plays.”

There was another trait that impressed coaches.

“I’ve always been a vocal leader,” Harrington said. I think that’s a mentality thing, too. A lot of guys are leaders, but they aren’t vocal. They have the characteristics of a leader, but they just aren’t vocal about it. I’m one of those guys and im going to be a vocal leader as well.”

Harrington carries himself with a swagger that is respected by the people who are around him, Thomas said.

“His work habits and his ability to always be out front especially for a leader, he shows up and that’s who Jarrod was,” Thomas said.

During Harrington’s time at Campbellsville, he was able to touch the football in any means necessary: jet sweeps, bubble screens, returns. But one of his best highlights came his freshman season. The Tigers were playing the BlueField College Rams in their last game of 2012 when Harrington made the play of the season.

“It was a rollout and I had a corner route, but the quarterback scrambled and I just pointed up,” Harrington said. “It was a deep ball, it’s in the air for a long time and I had to adjust to it, and I had three guys around me and I just out-jumped all of them. When I got up for a second, I knew I was going to catch it but I’m like, ‘Dang I really caught that.’“

Gehres said that Harrington coming down with the ball numerous times and helped the team win that game 23-14.

“I remember after the game our O-line coach came out and he was just as shocked as I was and he just said out in the air, ‘Who recruited that guy? That guy needs a raise, whoever recruited that guy,’“ Gehres said. “That was when he was a freshman and we knew from then on that we had a good one.”

His time with the Tiger saw Harrington leave with two conference championships and multiple record-setting stats. Harrington sits first at Campbellsville in total receptions (193), kick return touchdowns (1), passing receptions in a single season (81) and all-purpose yards (1987), and is third all-time in receiving yards (2288).

“He went from defensive back to playing full-time receiver and starting at the collegiate level all four years, setting all kinds of records,” Gehres said.” He’s had a great career for us but it was kind of unforeseen. I’m sure he didn’t project himself to be on the offensive side but that is what we liked him as and we stayed there recruiting as everyone fell off.

“We kind of got lucky and we are very fortunate for that.”

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