Warhorses open season with new quarterback

Fred McCormick

For many, the horseshoe is a symbol of good luck. But for Owen Warhorses quarterback DeMarcus Harper, the logo on his helmet may just as well represent a new beginning.

Going into last season, Harper figured to be a key piece of a team that virtually everyone was predicting would win the Western Highlands Conference. The Warhorses fulfilled those expectations, but mostly without Harper, who injured his shoulder in the second week of the season against Brevard.

“At first I thought that it may have been dislocated or something,” he said, recalling the injury that kept him out for most of the year. “But then I found it was a broken collarbone, and I was really disappointed.”

The injury was especially disheartening for Harper, who expected to split time at the position during his junior season with last year’s starter Sam Drummond.

“I worked really hard to get ready for the season, and just like that I was hurt,” Harper said.

The injury to his powerful right shoulder forced him to focus on getting ready for his senior season. He is now firmly entrenched as Owen’s starting quarterback. The season starts Friday, Aug. 21. His intense workout regime began this summer.

Harper’s routine included daily trips to the weight room, where he concentrated on strengthening his shoulder, as well as the rest of his upper body. Focusing on getting bigger and stronger, he also ran twice a day.

His competitive nature is what drove rehabilitation, he said.

“I just can’t let anybody beat me,” he said. “I have to work harder than everyone else.”

In the months that he has come to know Harper, first-year Owen head coach Nathan Padgett has seen a strong work ethic, he said.

“I’ve seen him be a leader on and off the field,” Padgett said. Harper is “one of the hardest-working players that I’ve seen in a long time.”

Harper’s habit of working after practice and his ability to organize his teammates on the field gave Padgett an indication that he is equipped to handle the responsibilities required of a quarterback.

Harper believes he has other strengths as quarterback.

He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at a camp held at Florida State this summer. His speed gives him the option of running or throwing on a play, he believes.

His getting a better feel for the timing of the game gives him better understand what defenses are set up to do, even how they may react.

Those abilities make him “the kind of player you want on your team,” Padgett said.

Harper has been impressed with the team’s ability to transition from long-time coach Kenny Ford to his successor. He notices two different coaching styles and one important similarity.

“They both make you want to play for them,” he said.

Effort is the most important trait that Padgett wants to see from the defending conference champion Warhorses. The coach is hopeful that Harper’s teammates will follow the quarterback’s example.