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Hall of Famer Franco Harris speaks to assembled gathering at football media day

COLUMBIA - When former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame running back Franco Harris showed up at the annual High School Sports Report Media Day at South Carolina’s Indoor Practice facility on Sunday, he was more than eager to share an important message to the over 200 players and 50 schools that showed up.

Harris took about 10 minutes to speak to the assembled group. His message was rather simple and to the point.

“Kids are the same. They go through the same lessons we learned playing the game growing up,” Harris said. “The life lessons learned on the football field are the same things these kids are learning today. A lot of good comes from playing this sport and that’s the way it should be.”

“Being here today and seeing these kids takes me back to my high school days. It brings back so many great memories. Being on a team, you have friends and brothers for life. It’s more than just a game.”

It’s a game that is getting ready to get serious. The weightlifting, conditioning and 7-on-7 tournaments are soon to turn to into full pad workouts, scrimmages and finally being under the bright lights of Friday.

Media Day has become an annual tradition for many.

“This event is the precursor to let us know the season is upon us,” first-year Lake City coach Ronnie Baker said. “We have the Coaches Convention this week as the last wind down before the grind really gets going.”

That seemed to be the sentiment all around. The season hasn’t begun so everyone is on even footing at this point. Players getting around other highly rated players only gets the juices flowing a little more.

“It gets the guys pumped,” C.E. Murray coach Brian Smith said. “They’re starting to get excited what is coming up next. They want to see the top-ranked guys and when they see that it gets the blood boiling. We’re so grateful the high School Sports Reports continues to put this event on.”

Coaches agreed that being in this type of environment before the season begins is only more fuel.

“It’s motivation,” Heathwood Hall coach Danny Lewis said. “They’ve been around their teammates all summer and they come here and come see other guys and know we’re getting ready to line up and it’s going to be real. It’s fun and a great environment to be in.”

Some coaches use this as an honor for upperclassmen. First Baptist coach Johnny Waters is one of those that only brings a select few players that has earned the honor over their careers.

“We think it’s an honor to be invited here,” Waters said. “I only pick a few select juniors and seniors. It’s something they work for. It’s a great day to take pictures and put the uniform on for the first time in a while. At our school, we promote this.”

Others might be making the trip to a big-time college campus for the first time. That makes it a little more special to be able to bring the kids to before the season begins.

“We brought a good group of guys – young and old – and they’ve never seen this facility,” first-year Allendale-Fairfax coach Jim Shuman said. “They wanted to come see it and meet the other players. This really has them ready to go.”

Camden coach Brian Rimpf played in the NFL from 2004-2008. When he was in high school in the late 1990’s, he had never seen an event like the one put on the High School Sports Report. He thinks it only helps grow the sport.

“It’s neat for these high school players,” Rimpf said. “When I was coming up, we needed didn’t have anything like this. You get to take pictures, be around other teams and be around media. It’s fun for them to do something like this in a different environment that isn’t a stadium on Friday night.”

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