Vincentian N’Keal Harry carries the expectations of family and nation

When you strip away the NFL size, the eye-popping skills and the frenzied hype surrounding Arizona State freshman receiver Vincentian N’Keal Harry, what’s left is a soft-spoken, respectful, introspective, hard-working delight of a young man.

Vincentian N’Keal Harry
Vincentian N’Keal Harry

Son of Nadine Harry, Accounts Clerk at the State Electricity Company, Vinlec, N’ Keal mom is full of joy for her only son and talk’s about him with enthusiasm at every occasion that presents its self. From her facebook postings about his every success and celebrations fit for a Prince when at home in St Vincent,it’s a mother’s greatest joy to see her son excel as a star.

Mon Naudine Harry and Son N’Keal Harry

N’Keal still keeps in touch with his mom by phone, and hopes to make it back to St. Vincent soon to thank the many friends who follow his efforts on Facebook and search the island far and wide for venues that televise Arizona State football games.

Since arriving at ASU, however, N’Keal said he has realized how much bigger his family is than he originally thought.

“Leaving your family behind and we’re kind of out here on our own — it’s opened my eyes a lot to see how much support I have; not just from family but from the island in general,” said N’Keal. A lot of people from the island now are starting to watch football. I feel like I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing it for my family and I’m doing it for my country.”

 

N'Keal and Grandmother Felna Harry
N’Keal and Grandmother Felna Harry

To understand how that happened, you have to talk to Harry’s grandmother, Felna Harry. Nobody holds greater sway over coach Todd Graham’s biggest in-state recruit.

“She wants to make sure I’m not that type of guy that is always talking about myself or that’s always out there acting a fool,” Harry said Tuesday. “I’m really doing that for her because she’s always told me when I leave the house I’m a direct reflection of her and she always told me don’t embarrass her, or the name on the back of your jersey. So I make sure I’m remaining humble at all times.”

Harry’s grandmother has raised him since she moved with him off the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Vincent to the Valley when he was almost 4 (with her daughter’s and his mom’s blessing) to provide him with greater opportunities.

“Ever since he was creeping and crawling, there was always a ball around,” Felna Harry said. “Even when we were out walking, just give a him a ball and he was a happy child.”

Ever since he open-enrolled at Tempe Marcos de Niza, and then transferred to Chandler High after his sophomore year, a football has been Harry’s ball of choice. That choice is already paying dividends for the Sun Devils.

Through three games, Harry has 15 receptions for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and two carries for 38 yards and another TD. He is only the second freshman in school history, joining D.J. Foster, to score touchdowns in his first three games. The latest came on 27-yard, one-handed grab three seconds before halftime at Texas-San Antonio, to pull the Devils within 14-12 in a lackluster game they eventually won, 32-28.

Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) makes a touchdown reception against Texas-San Antonio corner back Teddrick McGhee during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry (1) makes a touchdown reception against Texas-San Antonio corner back Teddrick McGhee during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

N’Keal tried every sport under the sun as a kid: soccer, swimming, baseball, basketball and martial arts. Felna hoped he would choose something “less dangerous” than football, but she conceded to his wishes when he finally settled on football, and then excelled in it.

“The only sport I got N’Keal into that he really didn’t want to do was karate,” Felna said. “I always thought he was doing too much but he wanted to go, go, go. He was like the Energizer Bunny, wanting to do this and that.”

Felna suspects that N’Keal’s diversity of sporting options has helped him become the athlete he is today, but she is crystal clear in highlighting his greatest attribute.

“It doesn’t just come from natural talent,” she said. “He has put in a lot over work over the years.”

So has Felna Harry. She worked (and still does) night shifts as a caretaker for Hospice of the Valley so that she had time to get N’Keal to and from school and all his sports. Initially, she was studying to become a nurse at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, but that changed when she realized the two weren’t compatible.

Chandler High's N'Keal Harry poses with his grandmother, Felna Harry
Chandler High’s N’Keal Harry poses with his grandmother, Felna Harry

“I would sit there at practice with a book trying to study and at the end of the practice he would quietly come to me and say, ‘Grandma, did you see that catch I made?’ I would say ‘no’ and he would be crushed,” Felna said. “He wanted me to see what he was doing so I had to put my life on hold for him. It took a lot from me, but I did have a lot of help from his coaches.”

Felna admits to a tinge of pride at N’Keal’s early accomplishments and all the media attention he is garnering, but she worries that her boy is growing up too fast and she can’t guide him like she once did when he lived with her in Chandler. It’s a common refrain for parents and grandparents, but it’s a reality that Harry’s teammates tell him it is time to embrace.

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N’Keal Harry

“The people in St. Vincent work hard to get what they get,” N’Keal said. “That’s kind of where I get my work ethic from because all I know is my grandma working hard.

“When we first came to the United States, it was real rough because we had to start from the bottom. Just seeing her doing that was a great example for me. I’m thankful and I’m blessed that I got to see that because I believe that’s why I am the way I am today.”

Teammates say N’Keal is  staying humble, continuing to work hard and taking the steps each week that he needs to. He’s very talented and he’s built very well. As long as he continues to stay true to who he is, he’ll only get better and better.”

Photos and Article Information by CRAIG MORGAN  Arizonasports. Rewritten By Ernesto Cooke News784.

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