Marcus Harper’s 1,014 day wait comes to a close
Lost in Georgia’s demolition of Oregon was Harper’s first meaningful game time since 2019, when he was a senior in high school.
EUGENE — When Marcus Harper checked the date on his phone a week before Oregon’s trip to Atlanta, he realized his hiatus from the gridiron was hastily approaching three years in length.
Almost three years worth of days since his last meaningful contribution in a football game, back when he was a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Chicago. And if it wasn’t for an untimely injury to teammate, and fellow offensive guard, Ryan Walk, and Harper’s tedious, yet unwavering eye for preparation, the streak could well have marched on.
It ended last Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, when, for the first time in 1,014 days, Harper, a third-year sophomore, stepped in.
“When they called my number, I maybe got a little bit of jitters, but I mean, I've been preparing for this moment for 1014 days,” Harper said. “I didn’t want it to go to waste. I was just grateful for the opportunity."
Talk about a welcome back party.
Harper took over in the second half of the 49-3 drubbing Georgia laid on Oregon and immediately took reps against the likes of Jalen Carter — a consensus top-5 NFL draft prospect — and the Bulldog’s ferocious front.
“He's a player, like I'm a player,” Harper said. “He's a man just like I'm a man, so I didn't really want to over emphasize him.”
For the most part, Harper held his own and, score withstanding, so did the Ducks’ offensive line. They miraculously avoided giving up a sack and paved the way for a 4.5 yards per carry performance for the Oregon ground game.
It’s a simple, welcome reminder that all is not lost in defeat, even one as thoroughly demoralizing as Oregon’s season-opening loss. There’s always something to glean.
“When you prepare the way I prepare for three years, looking at Alex [Forsyth], looking at Ryan [Walk], looking at all those vets, how they prepare and everything like that, I didn’t want to waste my time,” he said.
He hasn’t received his grades from the coaching staff, but he’s insistent that he’s much harder on himself than they are.
“I had a couple of great blocks just being in there and everything like that, but I felt like I had a lot of the technical issues I needed to work on,” he said.
And, he readily admits, the speed of the game was perhaps the toughest of adjustments.
Walk remains questionable ahead of Oregon’s home opener vs. Eastern Washington. If he returns, Harper will again take a back seat, this time with a reminder of why the preparation is worth it. If not, Harper’s set for a true return, one in which he’s got the potential to flash far more.
“I have a lot of people in my corner that are definitely riding on me and they definitely want to see great things come from me,” he said.
— Shane Hoffmann
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