Dave Harris was a senior running back who was just hours away from serious knee surgery when we met in his hospital room. He had torn knee ligaments a few days earlier during the first carry of his first game of his senior season - without being touched! Inexplicably, his knee ligaments had ripped while running the ball in spite of not being touched or making any significant football move. Just months earlier he had just finished winning the 1998 Division I State Championship in both the 100 and 200 meter races. He had already run for over 2000 yards his junior year and had the unique combination of both power, speed, tenacity and instinct. And in an instant, his athletic career was in complete doubt.
Below is the story, written by Dave himself for a Freshman writing class. He was blessed to make it back to run spring track and then played football on scholarship with the University of Cincinnati, where he eventually graduated from.
THE TURNING POINT
Growing up, I was always the star athlete in whatever sport I played, as athletics always came easy to me. Other kids expected me to have an attitude and looked at me as a tough kid. This made most of them afraid to approach me. When I met the Reverend Saucier, the way the world saw me changed dramatically, and my view of the world also changed.
During the first football game of my senior year, I injured my knee, and the injury was so severe that I needed surgery. I was done playing football for the year. My first contact with the Reverend was a few days after my injury. He called to introduce himself, and told me he had been following my career for several years. He offered to be there for me and help with any problems I had adjusting to my injury. He told me he had started a group called TEAM JAM, which was a Christian athletic ministry, and several of his athletes had gone on to play pro ball. He said he would explain it to me in more detail when I was feeling better.
The next time I saw the Reverend, I was in a bed in the pre-op area of the hospital, waiting to go to surgery. The nurse came in and told me a reverend wanted to come in and pray with me, and it was the Reverend Saucier. He prayed with me and told me that God had a purpose in letting me be injured. He tried to show me some positive sides to my injury, but what he did was to make me look at myself in a different way. This made coping with this situation a lot easier.
The Reverend visited me at home while I was recuperating from my surgery. My personality was not very pleasant during this period, but the Reverend did not seem to mind. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word for me. During one of these visits he invited me to go to Detroit with TEAM JAM to see an Atlanta Falcons - Detroit Lions game. Even though I was still on crutches, I decided to go, and this trip helped to change my life.
In Detroit we stayed at the Double Tree Motel. I met Jamaal Anderson and Ed Smith, from the Atlanta Falcons (Ed. note: During Atlanta's Super Bowl year). Ed grew up under Reverend Saucier's ministry. He told me his life story. The Reverend had approached him when he was younger and had helped him turn his life around. The Reverend had shown him how to get God into his life, and since joining TEAM JAM, had spend a lot of time trying to be a role model to others. Th Reverend talked to me and told me that I could change my life and be whatever I wanted to be. He was praying with me and this was the turning point of my life. It was December 20, 1998 at 1:34 a.m. that I decided to give myself to Christ. This decision would have a gigantic impact on the things I did and how the world viewed me.
Going to church became a rewarding experience; I discovered I enjoyed the service. One day the Reverend asked me to speak before the congregation. When I got up to talk I was nervous, but I told everyone about how I had met the Reverend, and how my life had changed. When the service was over, everyone came up to me. They shook my hand and told me that they thought I was a good role model for my community.
Becoming involved in volunteer activities at the school was the next step. I had been working with the multi-handicapped class for a few years, but now I put in more time. Helping to teach the kids to swim at the recreation center gave me a feeling of fulfillment, and the smiles on their faces as they splashed in the water was fun to watch. I also helped kids learn to play basketball and watched them during funtime activities. At Christmas, I baked cookies for people in a nursing home, and I joined a group called Volunteer Opportunities for Teens. Their big fundraiser was a dance marathon. Everyone had to get pledges for how many hours they would dance, and all the money collected was to go to local charities. For several days I went door to door collecting money. Then I spent time standing in front of stores asking for donations, raising $1,750, which was the highest amount collected by anyone in our school's history. Helping others can really make you feel proud of yourself.
People began to approach me now, and at track practice, kids would ask my advice. I went to eighth grade track practice to help out. Another change in my life was that I gave speeches in school about alcohol and drugs. The first time I stood up in front of a group of kids I thought my words would not come out, but the speech went better than I expected. I began getting phone calls from people thanking me for what I had said.
The way I spent my time changed. I discovered that Bible Study sessions could be fun. i went to the Super Bowl with TEAM JAM, which was an opportunity I never would have had, if I had not changed my life around. At the Super Bowl in Miami, I got to go to NFL parties and meet NFL players. I had dinner with Irv Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, who also was a TEAM JAM member. He told me how Reverend Saucier had helped him and he prayed with me and gave me advice.
Meeting the Reverend and joining TEAM JAM was a turning point in my life, and I hope to be able to share with others how good it feels to give back to your community. Others see me differently now, because I am different. Hopefully, those differences are a permanent part of my life, as our society needs role models. TEAM JAM is a great place to learn to be one.
The Reverend spends a lot of time meeting people and encouraging them to fulfill their potential. He follows kids who show they have athletic ability, and he looks for opportunities to get involved in their lives. He steps in when they have legal problems and tries to put them back on track. When an athlete becomes injured, he is there to help them deal with the injury. He tries to teach the correct way to mix religion and athletics, and this helps to develop role models as we try to follow his example. Watching the Reverend work in our community is an inspiration.
David Harris (2000)
John Saucier, Dave Harris, and Kevin Sunde at the Medina County Hall of Fame induction.
Medina County Hall of Fame Inductee (2017)
U. of Cincinnati (1999-2004)
- Football - Return specialist
Brunswick HS (1995-1999)
Sr. - Injured on 1st carry. Out for Season
Jr. - Rushed for over 2000 yards
- All-State running back.
Sr.- Regional Finalist.
- 100 meter
- 200 meter
Jr.- Ohio Division I State Champ - 2x
- 100 meter - 10.97
- 200 meter - 21.85