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Growing up, everybody thought he was “too small” to play football.
But Dustin Harmon never paid much attention to what everybody thought.
Everybody except for one person, at least.
“I always wanted to play,” Harmon said, “but my mom wouldn’t let me because she thought I was too small, thought I’d get hurt.”
But in eighth grade, Harmon finally got his wish.
His mother relented—reluctantly—and allowed him the chance to prove all of his doubters wrong, a chance he took full advantage of.
After playing that first year of middle school football, he knew he wanted to pursue a spot on the varsity team as soon as possible.
That enthusiasm died down a bit when he got his first varsity action in a blowout win against Bethlehem during his freshman year.
“Coach put me in for a few plays at defensive end, but I’d never played that,” Harmon said. “He said find the ball and tackle somebody.”
When Bethlehem ran the ball up the middle, Harmon did find the ball and he did hit the ballcarrier, but it wasn’t quite as he had imagined.
“When the play was over, it felt like every bone in my hand was broken,” Harmon said. “I thought, ‘Man, they ain’t playin’. I felt like I was getting messed up out there, and I only played a minute. They were a lot bigger than me, and I knew it. After that, I was like, ‘Varsity is kind of scary.’”
But Harmon continued doing what he does best.
He kept working hard.
And Head Coach Eric Sagrecy couldn’t help but notice.
“He’s a guy that just goes out there and works very hard,” Sagrecy said. “He’s probably one of the hardest-nosed kids that we’ve had around because he goes out there and plays hard on every down.”
Harmon soon got his opportunity to regularly play varsity football during his junior year.
It was at this time that he began to shake off his previous notion about how “scary” the varsity game was.
“I started realizing they’re the same as me, and I could play with them,” Harmon said. “I mean, I’m a little small so I get messed up now and then but not as bad as I did in my freshman year.”
While Harmon knew from the start what was to be expected on the field, it has actually been the off-the-field benefits that have intrigued him the most.
For one, Harmon credits football for helping him to become “more responsible and more accountable for what I do.”
“For school work, I used to slack a little bit, but now I make sure I get my work done,” Harmon said. “I wanna get my work done. Football makes you want to try harder because once you go through a good summer of football, you can do anything. It’ll make you a better person in life, that’s for sure.”
Sagrecy has especially been impressed by Harmon’s transformation and says that the team’s goal is to “help mold our student-athletes into good people.”
“Dustin’s really improved as a player and as a person on the football team,” Sagrecy said. “He’s one of those guys that football has helped him grow and become a better young man.”
Harmon think it’s the no-nonsense atmosphere of the game that has allowed him to mature more rapidly.
“You’ve gotta be there on time or you’ll get in trouble,” Harmon said.
The family environment in the locker room has also drawn him in.
Because a football team “sweats together, bleeds together, does everything together,” they are able to become a much closer unit than a team playing a different sport, according to Harmon.
“Playing football’s like making a whole new family,” Harmon said. “Everybody out there’s my family now. Playing on Friday night is probably the best feeling you’ll ever have because you’re going out there and playing right there beside your brothers.”
For years, Harmon wasn’t able to play a sport that has “completely” changed his life because of his small stature.
But now he’s changing how people think about size.
“He’s small, but he plays tough,” Sagrecy said. “That’s what counts.”