Hokies' Harris carries his scars with pride Print
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Monday, 29 December 2008 10:52
NCAAF Headline News

 FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -Victor ``Macho'' Harris still has the scars. Some visible, some not.
The star Virginia Tech cornerback pulls up his right sleeve, revealing skin that will never fully heal after the grease fire in his family's kitchen on Dec. 15, 2004. He endured third-degree burns, but saved the house by grabbing a nearby blanket and towel and using them to smother the flames.
Then he pulls up his left sleeve. That's where he has the tattoo of his mother's face and long, flowing hair, along with the words ``My angel, my reason, my mother.'' Maritza Harris, who inadvertently left the stove on too long when making her specialty, the fried chicken and french fries that her son craved, died 10 days after that fire from a brain aneurysm.
Christmas Day 2004 she was gone.
going to step up and make it happen?''
More often than not, the guy everyone at Virginia Tech knows as Macho makes it happen.
His stellar college career will end Thursday night, when the 21st-ranked Hokies (9-4) play No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) in the Orange Bowl at Miami. Harris will take the field that night and point to the sky, thinking of his mother, just like he's done every day since her death.
He is young a man of devout faith, someone who believes everything happens for a reason. He hasn't figured out why his mother needed to die at 43, but knows that fire was a sign pointing him toward playing for Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech.
Beamer, see, has been through the fire, too.
He was badly burned as a young boy after some gasoline spilled on him near an open flame, suffering injuries far worse than what Harris endured. Beamer needed more than two dozen surgeries over a period of about three years to fix what that fire did to his face, shoulder and chest.
Who was coming over that night for a recruiting visit when Harris got burned? Beamer.
Who sat with Harris that night in the hospital, telling him things would be OK? Beamer.
Who was the only coach to call after Harris' mother died? Again, it was Beamer.
nd because there was nobody in that room, not even my family, that could feel the pain that I felt,'' Harris said. ``But Coach Beamer could because he had been through the fire and stuff like that. I just felt like it was just a great, great player and coach bond, and I just felt like it was home here at Tech.''
Harris has 15 interceptions in his career, is a two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick, returns punts and has played some at wide receiver this season. He's the unquestioned locker-room leader, and certainly lives up to the name his father gave him as a toddler growing up in New York City.
Victor Harris Sr. wanted his son to grow into a strong man. ``Macho Man'' was a popular song at the time. So the son became Macho.
``I'm a big Macho Harris fan,'' Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. ``I think when you go through some adversity, you define yourself as you battle those hard times. And Macho has defined himself as a young man with great character, obviously great faith, but he has tremendous discipline and desires.''
A year ago, after the Hokies lost the Orange Bowl to Kansas, Harris' desire was to go pro.
His discipline - and once again, his faith - eventually steered him back toward Blacksburg.
e NFL money could change the family's life. But he was torn, so he made a list of the pros and cons. One side of the sheet of paper said ``Stay'' at the top and all the reasons why he should remain a Hokie, and the other side said ``Leave,'' where the positives about going pro were listed.
Even that couldn't make up his mind. So he put the paper in between his bed sheets the night before he had to decide, and whichever way it ended up after his tossing and turning, that would be the decision.
In the morning, the ``Stay'' side was visible.
Deep down, that's what Harris wanted anyway.
``Confirmation, right there,'' Harris said.
Opponents probably would have liked that paper to have flipped over one more time.
Harris has six interceptions this season, two returned for touchdowns, and even though the Hokies lost seven players off last year's defense to the NFL, they repeated as ACC champs.
Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike said the Bearcats haven't seen a better defensive back this season than Harris.
``The physical nature he brings, his size, his speed, he's a dangerous guy,'' Pike said. ``He picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown when we met a few years ago. So obviously, you know going in that he's a key player for them, a lock-down guy and someone you want to look out for.''
score against Cincinnati on Sept. 23, 2006, was the first of his college career. He'll never forget it - because it came one day after his mother would have turned 45, and by the time he reached the end zone, his eyes were already welling with tears.
He's a Mama's Boy. As proof, those words are tattooed on the right side of his neck.
But he's as tough - as macho - as they come, poised enough to deliver a 15-minute eulogy at his mother's funeral.
``Nobody calls me Victor. Nobody at all, not my family members, nothing,'' Harris said. ``My dad gave me the name and I've got to walk with it proud. I can't make him disappointed by letting the name down, so I'm here trying to do whatever I can to keep the name up. It's Macho.''
 

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