Marvin Harrison Thriving Under His Own Pressure

With a game-tying touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of last January’s Rose Bowl, Ohio State freshman wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr. became the first Buckeye to ever record three touchdown catches in one bowl game.

About five minutes later, teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba joined him, but Harrison still got to the summit first. They became the fourth and fifth receivers to ever record three touchdown catches in the Rose Bowl.

It also happened to be the 25th anniversary of the last time a Buckeye freshman caught multiple touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. That came when David Boston caught a pair of scores against Arizona State, including the game-winner from Joe Germaine with 19 seconds to play.

Harrison finished with six catches for 71 yards and three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. He started in place of All-American Garrett Wilson, who opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The start gave everyone a pretty good look at what the future held for Harrison, who caught just 11 total passes for 139 yards and three scores as a freshman.

For those who have paid attention, there wasn’t much doubt that Harrison was ready to step up. And when he did, he may have been the least surprised of anybody.

“Surprised? No. Definitely I’m grateful and blessed to be able to do that in the Rose Bowl, which is one of the biggest bowl games in college football history, but I think it was all just confidence, believing in myself going into the game,” Harrison said this spring.

“I talked to [quarterback] CJ [Stroud] a little bit on Monday, he just talked to me, ‘Just have confidence in yourself, believe in yourself that you can accomplish it.’ So he helped me a lot.”

When Harrison was finally given an opportunity to play 60 snaps in a game, he produced. Unfortunately for him, he spent most of the year watching Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba command the vast majority of the snaps in this offense.

Although to hear Harrison tell it, he’d probably leave out the “unfortunately” part.

“Yeah, no I wouldn’t say it was really tough at all,” he said of his time on the sideline. “Honestly, it was one of the best things that could happen to me, learning from Chris and Garrett, the two best receivers coming out right now. I’m very grateful to have them and be able to sit behind them and watch.”

Harrison certainly made the most of his time under the learning tree, then showed everybody what was possible when it was time for him to lead a lesson.

His Rose Bowl performance created expectations for this coming season. Maybe not three-touchdowns-per-game expectations, but not far off. When a receiver gives a performance like that in their first real opportunity to show what they can do, more is going to be expected of them moving forward.

Harrison is perfectly fine with the added expectations because they still won’t exceed his own plans for himself.

“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure because I’m always gonna put pressure on myself to do the best that I can do,” he said. ” So I wouldn’t really say there’s added pressure. Obviously, I’m stepping into a role that Garrett was last year, just playing the X receiver. But like I said, we’re all moving around now. So it’s like X, H, Z, Y, whatever. But I wouldn’t say there’s any added pressure that I didn’t put on myself already.”

One of the reasons Harrison is okay with the pressure is because he is always working. He knows last year wasn’t good enough for this year. He was just a freshman, after all. Harrison is far from being at his very best, but that isn’t keeping him from trying to get there as quickly as possible.

“I’m always trying to work on everything,” he said. “Speed. Contested catches. Anything you can think of. Beating press coverage. Getting out of my breaks faster. Tracking the deep ball over the shoulders, everything like that.”

Once or twice a week, he will work on his releases. After practices, there will be extra time catching passes. During the summer, he will get together with a quarterback and run routes and catch balls. He is always trying to hone his game. Being 6-foot-3 (and a half) and 205 pounds, however, he is also focused on one other key aspect heading into this season.

“Hopefully I’m just faster,” he said. “That’s one of the things I wanted to always work on, just get faster, get quicker. I feel like where the game is going now, receivers are more hybrid, not just big and slow anymore. You’ve gotta be able to move. And just having that speed and quickness is definitely one of the things I’m working on.”

Exhibit A:

Harrison prides himself on his work, which is one of the reasons he was ready for the Rose Bowl spotlight six months ago.

Now with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave out of the picture, the possibilities for Harrison this year are exciting because he understands that it’s not just going to happen. It will always require hard work.

And it will always be worth it.

“I mean, that’s just something I always try to do,” he said. “My whole life. Every team I was on, I just always wanted to be the hardest worker. I try to put in a lot of extra work because I know that it’s going to pay off.”