Arizona Republic sports columnist Greg Moore makes the case for ASU star N’Keal Harry to go pro.
When you say goodbye to Manny Wilkins, Dasmond Tautalatasi and Jalen Harvey as they suit up for the last time at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, make sure you say goodbye also to N’Keal Harry.
The real deal is that it’s time for him to go.
Those other guys are seniors. They don’t have a choice. Harry’s a junior, but he doesn’t have a choice either — at least he shouldn’t.
It’s time for N’Keal Harry to turn pro, and with Arizona State positioning itself as “NFL U,” with coach Herm Edwards stocking his staff with guys who played on Sundays, there should be no temptation whatsoever for the star receiver to stay for his final season.
There have been an increasing number of NFL scouts at his games, and he’s projected as a first-round pick. ESPN ranks him among the top overall prospects. Sports Illustrated says he could be the first receiver taken. CBS Sports has him as a top-five selection.
That should be enough, and the guess here is that it will be.
‘I love this school’
ASU players have been describing N’Keal Harry’s talent as “next level” for weeks, and even a casual observer can watch what the Chandler High product does out there and recognize that he’s in a different class.
Before the season, Harry said people who know and love him have encouraged him to finish school. People who don’t know him well have hyped him up, “Hey, bro, go to the league.”
He was considering his options, saying he’d make his decision at the end of the season. “If I have unfinished business, if I feel like I can afford to have another year, I would love to stay. I love my teammates. I love this school. I love what this program is doing.”
We’ve loved watching. All of it. The punt returns. The one-handed grabs. The slow-developing cutbacks. The long runs after short catches.
We might not remember the exact game or the yards or the circumstances. But we’ll always remember that feeling of witnessing something amazing. And it’s gotten to the point where we expect it.
“It’s like, ‘OK, there’s No. 1,’” Edwards said after the win over USC. “‘No. 1 does it again.’”
This was after a 92-yard punt return touchdown and a flying, falling and flipping one-handed grab that was the exact sort of play that transformed Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from a pretty good player into a megastar.
Beckham gets paid to sell us shampoo, beef jerky, soda, cellphone plans, shoes and cars. That’s on top of the contract he signed with the Giants in August that has a maximum value of $95 million, more than a third of which was guaranteed at signing.
Harry got nothing from his catch but respect.
Harry can’t assume any of Beckham’s endorsement deals or stardom, of course. Just because he can highlight and top-play his way through the Pac-12 doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the NFL.
But just consider the values attached to draft position, and it’s clear why Harry has to go.
Degree can wait, money won’t
Players taken in the top of the first round make more than $5 million a year. By the end of the first round, that falls to less than $2 million. From there, it doesn’t take long before players are signing for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The difference between high first round and mid second round is about $25 million over four years.
There’s no guarantee that he’ll be a first-rounder. But it’s a chance he’s got to take.
If Harry comes back next year and his draft stock slips for any reason, he risks the ability to make his family comfortable for generations.
Again, the guess here is that he knows all this, has considered all this and made up his mind weeks ago that he’s going pro at the end of the season.
But the rationale has to be laid out clearly in black and white in the off chance that he’s having so much fun he’s considering coming back or that he wants to please a loved one by earning his degree before leaving.
The degree can wait. That money won’t. And he’s not allowed to get paid as a Sun Devil. So he’s gotta go.
Here’s hoping for another sighting of “Unreal” N’Keal Harry against UCLA. He’s got his Sun Devils playing for the Rose Bowl, but he and his teammates have to treat every game like it’s the last they’ll ever play.
For seniors including Manny, Das and Jalen, it will be their last in front of their home fans. (Thanks for the memories, fellas. We won’t forget you. And we’ll tell your stories so others don’t either.)
That should be the case for one junior, too.
Cheer as loudly as you can for N’Keal Harry against the Bruins. It should be your last chance to do so.