After a recruiting process he tolerated much more than he enjoyed, five-star defensive end Zach Harrison has signed with Ohio State.
The 6-5½, 243-pound senior at Olentangy Orange, who revealed little publicly throughout his recruitment but allowed The Dispatch to document his senior season, had narrowed his list of finalists to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
The decision gives the Buckeyes the nation’s No. 4 overall recruit and the top strong-side defensive end prospect in the country according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
Harrison will graduate high school early and enroll next semester.
He was in a reclining chair in his family’s house in Lewis Center a little more than two weeks from signing day when he looked ahead to finally being done with the recruiting process.
“It’s like climbing a mountain,” he told The Dispatch on Dec. 4. “I’m almost to the top, but those last couple feet are the hardest. I want to get to the top so I can look back and be like, ‘Wow, I’m done. Now I get to just focus on playing ball and being a kid again, making friends and hanging out.’ ”
>>Read about Zach Harrison's journey
>>Video: Ryan Day on signing Zach Harrison
Befitting to his attitude toward the recruiting process as a whole, Harrison didn’t make his announcement live on ESPN or hold a jam-packed press conference. He did it at his high school via a live video stream on Twitter with only invited guests in attendance. He did not do interviews before or after the event, and the school requested that media members not be on its grounds because it’s a semester exams day.
Leading into signing day, Harrison and his parents allowed The Dispatch to follow him through his senior season. He suffered a knee injury during the preseason that cost him the first three games of the year but returned to help lead the Pioneers into the playoffs and finish 7-4 overall.
Throughout, the process was a necessary evil for a 17-year-old who just wanted to play football.
“If we do discuss it, it’s a sit-down for 30 minutes and then we’ll carry on with our regular day,” he said in early December. “It’s not something that’s constantly on our minds, constantly talking about it, constantly thinking about it. (If it was), I feel like it would just overwhelm and consume me. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy being a 17-year-old kid anymore.”
Harrison is the third-highest-rated recruit from Ohio since the inception of the 247Sports rankings in 1999.