Damien Harris of Madison Southern is headed to The Opening, the most prestigious high school football camp in the nation.
Nike is hosting the event at its Beaverton, Ore., headquarters July 7-10.
Harris, rated the No. 1 prep running back in the country, will be the only Kentuckian among the 162 players at the invitation-only camp. Nike picks up the tab on the players’ airfare and lodging.
“I’m definitely excited,” Harris said. “It was a blessing just to get invited. I can’t wait to go and compete with the best players in the country.”
Harris will have to make the cross-country trip alone.
The Opening falls during the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s dead period when coaches aren’t allowed to have contact with their players. That means none of Madison Southern’s coaches can accompany the 17-year-old Harris to Oregon.
Esther Harris, Damien’s mother, said she can’t afford the airfare to chaperone her son. None of her family or friends can make the trip, either.
Esther Harris contacted the KHSAA and asked commissioner Julian Tackett if he could grant a waiver so one of Madison Southern’s coaches could go to Oregon with her son.
“He told me the dead period was in place and he couldn’t give me a waiver,” she said. “He wished Damien the best.
“I’m still holding out hope that a blessing will drop out of the sky and I can go with him. If it doesn’t, he’ll be going to the West Coast by himself.”
Tackett said it’s unfortunate that Nike scheduled the camp during the dead period (June 25 through July 9), but making a “specific exception for anyone would lead to requests from many others, and the schools have been pretty emphatic that dead means dead.”
Tackett noted that Conner quarterback Drew Barker was similarly affected last year when he attended The Opening.
“I think certainly it would not be well received to make an exception for elite athletes, or those that shoe companies or other corporate entities that decide to go after elite prospects,” Tackett said.
Harris, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior with 4.4 speed, commited to Michigan last summer, but decommited in January. He recently announced his top eight schools: Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame.
At The Opening, Harris will participate in individual drills and tests, a 7-on-7 tournament, and receive instruction from current and former NFL players and coaches.
Nike will also give the high school players clothing and equipment. However, state high school athletic associations can limit how much “swag” players are allowed to receive.
Tackett said KHSAA rules restrict awards from a specific activity to a maximum worth of $300. Tackett said that’s “extremely liberal” compared to most states.