As Zach Harrison unzipped his gray hoodie, it became apparent with the scarlet shirt underneath that he was staying home.
The Olentangy Orange High School senior defensive end chose to continue his football career at Ohio State, revealing his decision on the first day of the early signing period Dec. 19 in front of the Orange student body, which burst into applause.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder selected the Buckeyes over Michigan and Penn State. He was rated by several recruiting services as the state’s top college recruit in the 2019 class.
“It’s been a long process,” Harrison said after stepping to the podium. “But I have decided to continue my academic and football career at THE Ohio State University.”
Harrison beamed a smile, perhaps a sign of relief that the recruiting process was complete. He will enroll at Ohio State in January so he can participate in spring practice.
“I’d like to thank everyone, all of the students for coming. I wanted to thank you guys for growing up with me so I thought you should be a part of this,” Harrison said. “The coaches and teachers, I’d like to thank you for putting up with me on the practice field and in the classroom and helping me become the man I am today.
“I’d like to thank my family. … Traveling across the country with me, the long car rides and hotel rooms, the dinners, the late-night conversations and helping me sort through all of the chaos that has been going on. It’s been stressful for all four of us. I’d like to thank you guys and just left you know, we did it.”
Harrison was joined on stage by his parents, Jimmie and Tracey, and his sister, Zahara.
As a senior, despite missing three games with a leg injury, Harrison had 35.5 tackles, seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss and was named first-team all-state and all-district in Division I and OCC-Buckeye Division Defensive Player of the Year. He also saw time on offense, where he had 21 catches for 381 yards and four touchdowns.
The Pioneers finished 7-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye to share the league title with Olentangy and Olentangy Liberty. They lost to Toledo Whitmer 20-17 in the first round of the Region 2 playoffs.
“To be truthful, I didn’t really know which one he would be going to attend,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “It wouldn’t have surprised me for him to pick any of the (three) schools.
“They all had pros and cons for him in making a college choice. But when it came down, the thing that continued to stick out was all of the opportunities that were presented at Ohio State.”
Last season, Harrison was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league after having 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks on 34.5 total tackles. He also had nine receptions for 173 yards and four touchdowns.
As a sophomore, Harrison turned heads in his first season with extensive varsity play. He was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league with 32 tackles, including 11 for loss, and five sacks. He also caught 13 passes for 185 yards and five touchdowns.
“His whole mindset is that he’s a kid who feels like he has never arrived,” Schroeder said. “His work ethic and the effort he puts out every day in practice are only going to help him. That’s what will help him maximize his potential.”
Harrison also has been selected to play in the 19th All-American Bowl, which will kick off at noon Jan. 5 in the Alamodome in San Antonio. The game features the top 100 high school football players in the country.