South Carolina

Nyckoles Harbor, top football recruit, signs with South Carolina


As Nyckoles Harbor waited for the signal from the ESPN control room to announce the most important decision of his young life, his father Azuka was amazed that his son’s smile and demeanor caught the attention of the boisterous crowd at Archbishop Carroll’s grammar school had . Moments later, Nyckoles announced he was signing to play football in South Carolina.

Azuka “Jean” Harbor had seen his son turn on the charm for the camera many times, but Wednesday had a different feeling. Before Nyckoles’ announcement, the former US men’s soccer team member saw an aspect of his superstar son that the public didn’t even have proof of: his self-doubting side.

In the past 48 hours, Nyckoles had nearly torn a hole in the floor of the family’s Prince George’s County home as the five-star recruit went from room to room weighing the pros and cons of each program.

“Seeing how stressed my kid was just yesterday [now] It’s hard for me to understand being up there shaking hands and doing interviews with ESPN,” Azuka said. “How come my child refuses to sleep unless it’s on my chest? [as a child] Making decisions that affect the lives of millions of people? All I can say is wow.”

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Harbor, the No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2023 per 247 Sports composite rankings, joined a class in South Carolina that ranked 16th in the nation. Since South Carolina hired Shane Beamer as coach in December 2020, they have enjoyed two successful seasons and made DC-area recruiting a priority. The Gamecocks also signed defensive end Desmond Umeozulu (CH Flowers), offensive tackle Oluwatosin Babalade (DeMatha) and defensive back Zahbari Sandy (St. John’s) in this class.

As a consecutive DC Gatorade Player of the Year – in football and track – Harbor also considered Maryland, Oregon, Miami and Michigan.

“At the end of the day, what really came down to me was that it felt like family out there,” he said of South Carolina. “I had the opportunity to go almost anywhere, but I wanted to be somewhere that felt like home. Coach Beamer and these guys have always made me feel that way since my first visit. I feel like I’m the last piece of the puzzle out there.”

Azuka said the family went to sleep Tuesday night expecting Nyckoles to sign with either Maryland or Oregon. But when Azuka came home from work on Wednesday and saw his son standing in the driveway, he thought he’d changed his mind.

“As I got out of the car, I just asked him, ‘What’s worrying you, son?’ ‘ Azuka recalled. “And he said, ‘Dad, I think South Carolina is where I need to be.’ I feigned surprise, but the whole time I felt like that was his favorite.”

Harbour’s engagement completed a whirlwind recruitment process that began in spring 2021. A little-known sophomore at the time, he caught the attention of college coaches across the country when highlights of his first and only varsity game went viral. Facing Bishop O’Connell, Harbor had multiple sacks, caught a touchdown pass, and blocked a punt.

His recruitment peaked last spring when he ran a time of 10.28 seconds in the 100m – despite being 6ft 5 and weighing 235lbs.

“It’s all such a blessing,” he said.

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His ambitions for his time in South Carolina are high. Harbor plans to play soccer and run at the track with goals to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics. He’s made his name as a defensive end at Carroll, but the Gamecocks plan to use him more in a hybrid wide receiver/tight end role.

“To be honest, there’s no real comparison to me because the world has never seen an athlete like me,” Harbor said. “But if I had to choose, I’d say it’s going to be something like a combination of Calvin Johnson and Kyle Pitts.”

That fall, Nyckoles earned first-team All-Met honors after recording 45 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. He also had 15 receptions and five touchdowns as a close finish. Harbor’s class leaves Carroll as one of the most successful in school history: she went 23-4, won the 2021 DC State Athletic Association title, and won the 2022 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Metro Division Championship.

“It’s been an honor to have been the face of this program for the past few years,” Harbor said. “But now it’s going to the next level. Tell the fans their new king has arrived.”

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