ATLANTA — There was pressure — of course there was pressure.
Marvin Harrison Jr. wasn’t just following his father into football, he was playing the exact same position as his Hall of Fame dad, Marvin Harrison, hoping to make it as a wide receiver after realizing early on in high school that football, and not his first love of basketball, was his calling.
“People kind of expect you to be just as good if not better than he was,” the standout Ohio State sophomore said Thursday at Peach Bowl media day. “The pressure is always there, I just got used to it over time.”
Pressure doesn’t seem to bother the younger Harrison. He was able to handle the expectations well growing up — they made him want more out of himself — developing into a four-star recruit at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. As a freshman, he was given the nickname “Route Man Marv” by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. This season, he blossomed into a premier receiver, making up for Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s season-long absence by catching 72 passes for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns. He won the Big Ten’s Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award along with consensus All-American honors.
Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowler who won a Super Bowl with the Colts, has had a major role in his son’s ascension. But not in the overbearing, helicopter-parent way. He gives his son space. He never pushed football. When his son seeks advice, he is there to give it.
“He lets me be my own person,” Harrison Jr. said. “He doesn’t really add any pressure to me.”
There are similarities between the two, Harrison Jr. believes, particularly in their precise route-running and technique. The Ohio State star thinks he is faster than his father was, though dad might not agree, and at 6-foot-4, he is taller. He doesn’t have any memories of his dad as a player, since he was just 6 years old when Harrison hung it up, but he has watched film of him, and picks his brain on minor details that can give him an edge.
“Obviously having someone that you can talk to about the game of football, knows what they’re talking about, has seen so many things, experienced so many different things, played with so many great players, definitely helps,” Harrison Jr. said.
The younger Harrison has begun to make a name for himself and is projected to be one of the premier receivers in college football next season. He could wind up getting drafted higher than his dad, who was taken 19th overall in 1996 out of Syracuse. But Harrison Jr. doesn’t expect anything to change for him, certainly not being known as the son of Marvin Harrison.
“I don’t think that’s ever going to stop,” he said with a laugh. “It’s always going to be there. No matter how good I do, I’m always going to be his son. I’ve kind of just embraced it at this point.”