In high school, parents often caution their kids not to do something just because their friends are doing it.
Would you jump off a bridge if they did?
For Matt Harmon, the proposition he received from a pair of friends five years ago didn’t involve jumping, but rather kicking — sort of.
Harmon was enjoying summer vacation before the start of his senior year at Canfield High School when two of his friends told him he should go out for the Cardinals football team. Harmon already played basketball and baseball at Canfield, but figured it couldn’t hurt playing football in his final year.
“They wanted me to play football with them my senior year,” Harmon said. “That’s really all it was. I had no idea what it’d turn into.”
Last week, Harmon was named a first-team All-Ohio Athletic Conference selection, an AFCA Division III All-American, and to the D3football.com Division III All-American team after his senior season as Baldwin Wallace University’s punter.
“I had no idea that I could even kick or anything,” said Harmon looking back on his decision to play in high school. “To get these honors, it means a lot to me and it truly is a blessing.”
He led the OAC and was eighth in Division III with an average of 41.6 yards per punt. He landed 22 of his 45 punt attempts inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line.
One of the friends Harmon has to thank for encouraging him to start playing was former Canfield kicker Billy Fisher, who attended the United States Military Academy after graduation.
“Billy really helped me with my mechanics,” Harmon said. “When the season started I wasn’t bad and then one thing led to another and next thing I knew I was the punter.”
Tom Watts was the special teams coordinator, defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Baldwin Wallace at the time (he’s now the head coach at Ohio Wesleyan). He had asked to see Harmon and Fisher try out, among others, and was impressed with what he saw. Harmon said he then made a trip to the school’s campus in Berea and fell in love with it.
“After my freshman year, I started working at it a lot more in the summer,” Harmon said. “I would say my sophomore year of college was when I really started getting progressively better.”
In the offseason, he worked with former NFL kicker Jeff Wilkins, who’s an Austintown Fitch and Youngstown State graduate. Harmon, who’s finishing up a degree in physical therapy and sports science, said he also made up his own workouts to build leg strength. Harmon finished his playing career at Baldwin Wallace as a three-year letterwinner and averaged 39.48 yards per punt.
Harmon said he’s keeping his options open after graduation in the spring.
“My dad is trying to see if I can get an NFL tryout, but that’s not my first option,” Harmon said. “I hope to go to grad school for exercise science at Cleveland State and maybe go back for physical therapy.”
In any case, Harmon sure is glad he listened to his friends advice five years ago.
“Who would’ve known it would turn into a college scholarship and possibly more?” he said.