Vashon High defensive Kenneth Harrell distinguished himself by making all-conference defensive end after a productive season for the Wolverines last fall in the Public High League.
But recently Harrell set himself apart even more among his PHL peers when he signed his college letter of intent with the Northwest Missouri University Bearcats program. As of now Harrell is the only PHL football recruit who can stake claim to the fact that he will be joining a reigning national champion, as the Bearcats captured the NCAA Division II crown last fall. Harrell can also assert that he is pledging with a perennial national championship contender, as the Bearcats have won four national titles since 1998 and were national runner-up four years in a row in the mid-2000's
"Everyone we have signed has bought into the fact that they will all play a major role in our future success," said Bearcats coach Adam Dorrel who was voted NCAA Division II national coach of the year after going 15-0 and winning the title.
Harrell, who at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds is considered rangy but undersized even at the high school level more than overcompensated by the apparent weight disadvantage and managed to come up with 59 tackles, five sacks, a fumble recovery and an unofficial number of forced fumbles.
"I think my speed and my length are the best part about my game," noted Harrell. "I think I'm able to use my speed and my length to make plays and be a game-changer. Just my awareness is a key."
A winning program aside, Harrell said visiting the Maryville, Missouri campus gave him a level of comfort which factored into his decision.
"The school felt family-like," relayed Harrell. "Just the way they welcomed me made me feel at home. I also felt like I just wanted to be part of a winning organization."
In specifically assessing Harrell's prospects with the Bearcats, Dorrel believes the Vashon defender will grow into the position strategically and physically as he matures.
"We felt Kenneth can start at the stud (stand-up) end position," noted Dorrel. "We really feel good about him being a pass rusher for us. He had a great motor, he's always around the football causing fumbles. His wingspan is really something we look at when we evaluate how a recruit will grow into their bodies. We think he will be really good for us."
Harrell who said he plans to major in athletic training or physical sports therapy was one of several to sign letters of intent recently. Carnahan standout quarterback- defensive back Dontrelle Busby may sign soon with a Northwest Missouri rival, Truman State (formerly Northeast Missouri),. Busby passed for 1,387 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 910 yards in leading the Cougars to a truly, surprising breakout 9-3 record which few outside of Carnahan supporters could have ever predicted. Career Academy star receiver Mark Frazier is also expected to sign with a program in the area, Lindenwood University-Belleville, the Metro-East (Illinois) campus, which was added in recent years to expand Lindenwood's St. Louis-area base. Career Academy defender DeBion Twitty is expected to join his teammate at Lindenwood-Belleville .
Meanwhile the Gateway Stem (formerly Tech) Jaguars sent linemen Nehemiah Ford and Booker Thomas and all-purpose back-receiver Zach McBride to the new Missouri Baptist program, where a former Gateway Tech head coach Charlie Coe is offensive coordinator. Meanwhile the Soldan Tigers who had been the second-best PHL program the last couple of seasons had lineman Jervonta Jones sign with Lincoln University in Jefferson City, while another lineman Demon Taylor sign with North Dakota University, linebacker-fullback Marvin Bowden with Missouri Valley and receiver Cortlen Brooks with Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.
Among the notable numbers for the other PHL recruits, Frazier had 19 catches for 398 yards, good for a robust 20,9 yards per catch and Twitty had 71 tackles and four sacks, Demon Taylor, who's 6-4, 280 had 73 tackles and 17 sacks for the resurgent Soldan Tigers program.
Of course the biggest upside in all of the signings and future signings will be the scholarship.
"I felt like it was my responsibility to relieve m mom or dad of the responsibility of paying for me to go to college the next four or five years," explained Harrell.