Robert Harris Jr., serving as Bladensburg's defensive coordinator, watched aghast as an errant throw during practice hit his youngest son, Jordan, who was about 3 at the time. Before Robert could run over, his oldest son and namesake — about 8 at the time — picked up Jordan, dusted him off and said, “Don't cry. Suck it up.”
“It was just amazing that he heard on the field that he took to heart, as far as being a man about things,” Harris Jr. said of Robert Harris III. “That was a definite wake up call, that he knew what to do and how to handle himself and that I didn't have to watch him every waking moment. As a parent, sometimes you want to protect him from every little thing, but it showed me that I've raised him and taught him some things he can do on his own.”
Like playing quarterback.
After years of hanging around his dad's practices, and even participating sometimes, Harris III is a sophomore starting quarterback at Surrattsville, where Harris Jr. is the head coach.
Before Harris III entered high school, he and his father discussed which school the youngster would attend. The final choices were DeMatha, Annapolis Area Christian and Surrattsville, the latter of which came with the potentially awkward predicament of playing for his dad.
“I knew that no matter what, my father would keep me on the right path,” said Harris III, who completed 5 of 9 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday in a season-opening win against Fairmont Heights. “He would help me out. He wouldn't do anything to steer me wrong.”
Recently, Harris Jr. was chatting with a few players in his office when one pointed out that Harris III has to run more backstops — laps around the four baseball backstops that surround Surrattsville's field — than any other member of the team. Harris III, also sitting in the office, didn't say much.
“I would like to say that I try to keep all the expectations equal and fair, but…” Harris Jr. said.
Harris Jr. even instituted a rule that only Harris III can bring up football when they're together outside of practice. That way, his son always has the option of receiving of a break from the tough coaching, but Harris III doesn't take advantage often.
“We're always talking football, no matter what,” Harris III said. “That's just what our relationship is.”
Defining their relationship can be a bit tricky at times. Around the team, they're Coach Harris and RH3. Around family, they're Big Rob and Little Rob. And of course, they're father and son.
But to Harris III, that last relationship only means so much this time of year. Surrattsville qualified for the playoffs for just the second time in school history last fall and made it to the 1A South Region final before losing to Dunbar (Baltimore). This year, the aim is to go further.
“The Surrattsville Hornets will be making a run for the state championship this year, and we look better than we ever have,” Harris III said. “This is not a father-son thing. It's a coach-quarterback thing.”