Monday, May 27, 2024

Marvin Harrison Jr. Q&A: Ohio State WR talks NFL draft uncertainty, New Balance deal

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Marvin Harrison Jr. does not enjoy the uncertainty that has followed him for the past several months, from his decision to opt out of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ Cotton Bowl game to his private pre-draft process that involved skipping the combine in Indianapolis. 

The waiting will finally end Thursday when the two-time All-American wide receiver hears his name early – fourth to the Arizona Cardinals? Fifth to the Los Angeles Chargers? – in the 2024 NFL draft in Detroit. He’ll also have to see if he is indeed the first receiver off the board, as draft experts have predicted for many months, or if that distinction will go to Washington’s Rome Odunze or Louisiana State’s Malik Nabers.

Before that, though, Harrison Jr. revealed Tuesday that he signed with New Balance and will help introduce the brand’s first American football cleats exclusively at the draft. 

“New Balance has done a great job of making me feel included in the family,” Harrison Jr. told USA TODAY Sports. “So, I couldn’t be happier to be signing with them.”

USA TODAY Sports spoke with Harrison Jr., the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison, about the New Balance partnership, what he likes about the other top wide receivers in the draft, and his decision to skip the combine in the Q&A below: 

Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity. 

USA TODAY Sports: Draft week’s finally here. What are the vibes? How are you feeling? 

Marvin Harrison Jr.: “I’m feeling good. Definitely super excited to figure out where I’m going. That’s definitely the biggest thing – you don’t know where you’re going to go. So just excited to get that process over with (and) get ready to work when I get there.”

USAT: Are you a guy who welcomes uncertainty in that sense, or are you really looking forward to Thursday a lot? 

MHJ: “I just need to know what’s going to happen so I can start to plan and move accordingly. I don’t really like the uncertainty.” 

USAT: There’s been much debate about the elite talent in the class and which one should be taken first. But have you gotten to know either Malik (Nabers) or Rome (Odunze) during the process? 

MHJ: “Yeah, we kind of knew each other way before this year, really, just always talking through social media, communicating that way. I think we all support each other. There’s not really any animosity between us. I think we all see that we’re talented players and, like I said, we support each other and root each other on.” 

USAT: What do you like about each of their games? 

MHJ: “They’re great players. Malik does a great job after the catch, ball in his hands. Rome does a good job making contested catches, high-pointing the football. So those are two things I really like in both their games.” 

USAT: All that being said, how much pride would you feel being the first WR taken in the draft? 

MHJ: “I mean, it’d be nice. I honestly don’t care about it too much. Really just more focused on going to the right situation for me, that’s going to help me be the best player I can be these first four years in the NFL. Whether that’s first receiver off the board, third, fifth, whatever that may be, I’ll just be happy that I’m getting drafted. And then like I said, just to do my best.” 

USAT: What was your way of letting teams know who the real Marvin Harrison Jr. is during meetings?

MHJ: “Just being yourself, just being who you are. That’s the best way. So that’s what I did.” 

USAT: When did you know that the Combine was not going to be a part of your pre-draft plans? 

MHJ: “Once the season had ended, I kind of knew what I would be doing moving forward. Talked to my team, felt that was best for us, and we’ve been sticking by it since.” 

USAT: What led you to signing with New Balance and joining that brand?

MHJ: “I think the values that I share and that New Balance share definitely align. New Balance is kind of giving me a platform where I can help impact different communities and also impact the younger generation and hope to inspire them to reach their goals and reach their dreams, kind of like how I’m doing right now. I would say all those factors led me to New Balance.” 

USAT: This is New Balance’s first foray into the American football footwear space. Were there talks of a signature shoe down the line? How would you feel about that? 

MHJ: “I mean, down the line, if that happens, that’d be great. Kind of just take it one day at a time though and just do my best to help promote the brand that I can right now. If a signature shoe or cleat comes in the future that’d be great, that’d really be an honor for me. I’m just going to do what I can at the moment.” 

USAT: Is there a current New Balance athlete you’d love to collab with or even just meet? 

MHJ: “Not really, maybe (Philadelphia 76ers guard) Tyrese Maxey.” 

USAT: For NFL fans who aren’t familiar with your game, what are you most excited to show them on the pro stage? 

MHJ: “Just produce. Produce at a high level. Do my best to help the team win and reach their goals. Every team wants to win the Super Bowl. I’m going to do my best to do that. Just be as entertaining to watch as I can for the fans.” 

USAT: Do you have a favorite play from your college career?

MHJ: “Probably my third touchdown of the Rose Bowl freshman year.” 

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