Fam­ily tra­di­tion un­der cen­ter

Tampa Bay Times - - High Schools - BY BOB PUT­NAM Times Staff Writer

ZEPHYRHILLS — Charles Har­ri­son III lofted a 32-yard touch­down pass on his fourth at­tempt of the game. The Zephyrhills High se­nior spent the rest of the half launch­ing left-handed strikes from wher­ever his swift feet would take him.

The speed. The strong arm. The im­pro­vi­sa­tional skills. It is all part of Har­ri­son’s ath­let­i­cally di­vine DNA.

This football lin­eage bridges three gen­er­a­tions. Har­ri­son III shares a name, a num­ber (12) and a po­si­tion with his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther.

“Play­ing quar­ter­back is just what we do in this fam­ily,” said his dad, Har­ri­son Jr.

The Har­risons are de­fined not only by the sport, but by tragedy.

Charles “Bo” Har­ri­son, the pa­tri­arch of the fam­ily, was a mul­ti­sport ath­lete for Mick­ens, the all­black school at the time in Dade City. He scored 55 touch­downs in his high school ca­reer, in­clud­ing 22 pass­ing and 18 rush­ing as a quar­ter­back in 1963.

Har­ri­son went on to be­come a Pasco County Sher­iff ’s lieu­tenant. In 2003, he was shot while on pa­trol near a night­club in La­coochee. Deputies found Har­ri­son in his pa­trol car, not breath­ing.

The beloved home­town hero died a month be­fore he was set to re­tire.

Har­ri­son Jr. said he of­ten went to that night­club. In­stead, he stayed home and was asleep when he got the news.

“I drove to where the shoot­ing hap­pened,” Har­ri­son Jr. said. “Sher­iff deputies took me to the scene, then I went to the hospi­tal. Once Daddy was gone, I just couldn’t be­lieve it. I lost it.”

Har­ri­son III was 2 years old at the time, still too young to re­mem­ber much about his grand­fa­ther.

“I wasn’t able to re­ally un­der­stand what hap­pened back then,” he said. “But I’ve got­ten to know my grand­fa­ther through all the sto­ries ev­ery­one would tell.”

Football is the fam­ily heir­loom passed from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

Har­ri­son and Har­ri­son Jr. were con­sumed by the sport. Har­ri­son coached his son in youth leagues. They tossed the ball in the yard in their spare time. “I was just raised on football,” Har­ri­son Jr. said. In high school, Har­ri­son Jr. was a quar­ter­back at Pasco. In 1992, he was the backup to Isaac John­son.

On the eve of the state cham­pi­onship game, John­son was ar­rested.

Har­ri­son Jr. was set to start in the big­gest game in school his­tory.

It never hap­pened. John­son was re­leased and led the Pi­rates to a win over Je­suit in the ti­tle game.

“We were all at home the night be­fore the cham­pi­onship game,” Har­ri­son Jr. said. “Daddy got a call and found out Isaac was in jail. He raced down to the sta­tion to see what hap­pened and if there was any­thing he could do.

“I was ready to go, and I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed that I didn’t get to start. But I wanted Isaac to be there. We were un­de­feated with him, and I didn’t want the game plan to change.”

Har­ri­son Jr. did not start, but he did get a state cham­pi­onship ring, some­thing that he shows to his son all the time.

“I tell him he needs to get one of his own,” Har­ri­son Jr. said.

Much like he did with his fa­ther, Har­ri­son Jr. bonds with his son through the sport.

Har­ri­son Jr. coached his son un­til high school. “I’ve been play­ing since I was 4,” Har­ri­son III said. “I learned a lot grow­ing up. The throws, the hand­offs, the routes. It all just easy to me. I think it had to do with my dad teach­ing me those things at such an early age.”

When Har­ri­son III got to Zephyrhills, he wanted to wear No. 12 as an homage to his grand­fa­ther and fa­ther.

Now the num­ber is not the only thing that bears re­sem­blance to his fam­ily’s past. Har­ri­son III is do­ing it through his play with 17 touch­down passes, 11 in the past two games.

“I think you’re see­ing all that hard work pay­ing off,” Har­ri­son Jr. said. “It’s some­thing that runs in the fam­ily.”

Times file (1992)

Har­ri­son III’s dad, Charles Har­ri­son Jr., wore the num­ber at Pasco High.

Times file (1962)

And Har­ri­son III’s grand­fa­ther, Charles “Bo” Har­ri­son, orig­i­nated it at Mick­ens.

ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times

Zephyrhills quar­ter­back Charles Har­ri­son III wears the No. 12 proudly.

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