“I need football”
Those are the words of the wide receiver at Adams State University. Elijah Harper, live. As he prepares for his 2023 NFL Draft, he talks about his journey and how the game has impacted him.
The Stockton, California native graduated from Western Ranch in 2017. After that, Saint Matteo He went to junior college before transferring to Adams State where he earned a degree in business administration and played football.
His football journey dates back to when he was two years old when he first wanted to play. Harper started playing when he was old enough and never stopped.
His high school wasn’t a big football school, so he attended a 7-on-7 tournament, where he met a coach from San Matteo Junior College. During these two years, Harper did not receive his D1 offer, but he received an offer from Adams State for his D2.
Instead, Harper stayed an extra year at San Matteo to improve his grades, but still didn’t get the D1 offer. He received another offer from Adams State University and took advantage of the opportunity.
“Adams State gave me the offer again, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to risk it, I’m going,'” Harper said. “It was a really good experience for me. I think it was a big step to where I needed to be mentally,” he said, noting that he wasn’t distracted from the typical party-school atmosphere of other schools. I hinted.
At Adams State, Harper had 1,412 yards on 94 receptions and 13 touchdowns. He also scored one touchdown from a kick return and a punt return. He also received one touchdown.
The year he didn’t play was the year of COVID, but Harper saw it as luck in disguise.
“COVID has helped me as an athlete,” he said. “Those extra years helped me get to where I am now.”
Since declaring the draft, Harper has spoken of strenuous preparation for the prospect of getting that call.
“It was a fight. Football is a dangerous sport, it’s a physical sport,” Harper said. “It’s also been a battle because I know what I can do. It’s about showing me what I can do and being in front of people.”
It’s a stressful process, but for the growing number of young players having breakout seasons in the NFL, the journey has been worth it.
“I love it. It shows people the next generation is coming. We have a lot of athletes in the league now,” Harper said. “At the same time, we have to respect older men because they paved the way for people to be here.”
One veteran who paved the way is Davante Adams, whom Harper admires.
“I’ve been following him since he was at Fresno State University,” Harper said. “I can try to model my game around him in some ways, like taking what he does sometimes and making it my own.”
His journey to live in Northern California meant he and his family grew up loving the San Francisco 49ers.
“Grow up, my family [are] 49ers big fan [but] If the team comes and catches me, I’ll be grateful for that,” Harper said.
His family feels the same way, and attribute this success to his early love for the game and the hard work he put into it.
“My family is really excited. Everyone was texting me, ‘Oh, you’re going to the NFL,’ when I announced I was drafted,” he said. I was. “I remember growing up. My brother-in-law and I used to play his Madden 2004.”
As Harper prepares for his draft, he mentions some of the journeys that are critical to his success.
“Don’t just be obsessed with the result, be obsessed with the process,” he said.
This advice is rooted in why he is an outstanding prospect.
“Most people say they like [football], but a lot of people actually do it to make money. I’ve been doing this for a long time and really enjoy the game,” said Harper. “I’m not in for the money. I’m not in for the fame. I don’t care about Instagram followers or blue checks. I just want to play football.”
Watch the full interview with Elijah Harper on the First & Jenn Podcast.