Despite demands, this punter has thrived

By NANCY MORGAN, Times Sports Correspondent
Published January 27, 2008

During the past four years, Jesse Harms Lakewood/Naval Academy Prep used football as an outlet from the demands of military and academic duties at the Coast Guard Academy.

The cadet thrived in his sport and collected numerous honors during his tenure at the academy, including being a third-team All-America selection the past three years.

"I had higher expectations coming here, especially after being at the Naval prep school the year before I came here," said Harms, 23. "It was there that I just punted. In high school, I had played defensive end and offensive tackle, along with some punting.

"I didn't even play organized sports until the sixth grade, and when I started punting, I knew I had decent leg power. But it took a lot of work to get that consistent contact with the ball. It takes practice with lots of repetitions, punting the same way each time while preparing for different scenarios."

Depending on the situation, Harms would punt balls that would purposely go out of bounds, those with less height or more height and balls directed to avoid a key player.

In addition to the various scenarios, Harms punted for distance, his longest 67 yards. During a four-year period that included 202 punts, he averaged more than 40 yards.

Ninth-year head coach Bill George considered himself lucky to get a player such as Harms.

"Jesse is a tremendous leader on and off the field and has been a great mentor for our younger players, and we'll miss him tremendously," George said. "Here, when we recruit, we first look at academic qualifications and the officer potential. Those two things jumped out first with Jesse, and then to see he's a fine player is a bonus. Plus, we don't get many punters that are instrumental in the leadership of the team, but Jesse was."

Among Harms' accolades were selection to the New England Football Writers Division III All-New England squad all four years and three consecutive D3football.com All-America selections. As a freshman, Harms was named D-III All-East special teams player of the year by Football Gazette.

With a May graduation on the horizon, Harms is hoping for a flight school assignment in Pensacola. At least a five-year commitment is in sight for Harms and 13 if he makes flight school.

And Harms hopes there is interest in either the NFL or CFL to take a look at his punting abilities.

"When I chose the Coast Guard - and many of us were influenced by the 9/11 attacks - there were a lot of surprises coming in," Harms said. "I was told I would find great friends here, but I didn't realize just how large the network would be. It's been a fun ride, and I look forward to whatever's next."

TENNIS: Sophomore George Navas of Belleair (Tampa Prep) won singles and doubles for Michigan in its team win in the Duke Invitational. Last summer, Navas won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Summer Circuit.

BASKETBALL: Flagler post player Jalisa Foster (Pinellas Park) tossed in eight points in a 61-49 loss to Eckerd. The sophomore is third on the team in scoring and second in free throws and rebounds.

GYMNASTICS: Summer Hubbard (St. Petersburg) is a sophomore all-around athlete for LSU. Last year as a freshman, Hubbard competed in all bars events, winning three.

DIVING: Austin Hampton (Admiral Farragut) won the 3-meter dive and was second on the 1-meter for N.C. State in a team loss to Clemson.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to namorgan@tampabay.rr.com or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.