The coaches at Nyckoles Harbor believe that comparing him to any other high school athlete in America is foolish and, quite frankly, unfair to the other kids.
Instead, Archbishop Carroll High School football coach Robert Harris compares Harbor to professional athletes, comparing his physical attributes to ingredients in a pot of gumbo – a dash of Usain Bolt and Calvin Johnson here, a dash of Derrick Brooks and Von Miller there.
“I’d probably throw a little Randy Moss in there,” Harris adds. “And we’d get a sense of what (Harbor) might be capable of in the future.”
Hyperbolic? Sure. Harbor, on the other hand, is a rare athlete who can even elicit such comparisons.
He has the size of an NFL edge rusher and the speed of an Olympic sprinter at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds. In football, he is a five-star recruit who has 47 tackles for loss and 10 touchdown catches in the last two seasons. In the 100-meter dash, he ran it in 10.22 seconds, which is the seventh-fastest under-18 time in the world this year, according to World Athletics.
“He’s truly one of the most unique prospects we’ve seen in Rivals history, dating back to 2002,” said Adam Gorney, Rivals and Yahoo! Sports’ national recruiting director. “There aren’t many athletes at his level anywhere in the world.”
Earlier this year, a video of Harbor on the track went viral on social media, showing him cruising past – and towering over – fellow sprinters at a meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
More recently, the focus of his attention has been on his football recruitment.
Harbor, who can play tight end or defensive end in college, is one of the top uncommitted 2023 prospects in the country, with Maryland, Michigan, and South Carolina vying for his commitment. He has 46 Division I scholarship offers, according to Rivals.
Harbor said he briefly considered turning pro in track but now plans to run and play football in college, with the NFL and Olympic qualification in the back of his mind.
“Overall, my goal is to get to the Olympics and win a medal,” Harbor said. “A gold medal would be fantastic.”
Football and track athletes are not uncommon, and several men have competed professionally in both. Renaldo Nehemiah, for example, set a world record in hurdles and played three years in the NFL. NFL wide receiver Marquise Goodwin competed in the long jump at the 2012 Olympics. Devon Allen, another hurdler, has spent this season on the practise squad of the Philadelphia Eagles after finishing fourth in Tokyo.
Harbor’s size, according to Archbishop Carroll track coach Rafiu Bakare, distinguishes him from those two-sport phenoms.
Harbor is already about the same size as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, but faster, with more than six months until his 18th birthday. (For reference, Metcalf ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.)
Harbor “creates his own category,” Bakare said. “He’s on his own when it comes to the fast twitch and this size. He’s currently on his own.”
Harbor estimates that he was 8 years old when he first noticed his own distinct athleticism, namely that he was simply faster than everyone else around him. In eighth grade, he grew from 5 feet 8 to 6 feet 2 inches, ensuring that he would be taller than almost everyone else.
Nyckoles, the son of Nigerian-American professional soccer player Azuka “Jean” Harbor, said competing in football and track – and the transition period between the two – has always felt natural to him. His body is used to changing weights. He plans to bulk up to 230 or 235 pounds during football season. He could be as light as 220 by the end of the track season.
Harbor’s coaches said they’ve seen various people try to steer him toward one sport or another over the years. But he’s never wanted to specialise, so they help him strike a balance by meeting on a regular basis to discuss scheduling and training to avoid potential conflicts.
“I just laugh when people try to formulate their opinion and then turn it into reality,” Harris said. “I believe he can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.”
He was a force in both sports at Archbishop Carroll.
Harbor’s personal bests as a sprinter are comparable to the high-school times recorded by current Team USA athletes. His preferred event is the 100-meter dash, but he also ran an indoor 200-meter dash in 20.79 seconds earlier this year – without using starting blocks. (His personal best in the 200 is 20.63.)
Meanwhile, in football, he helped Archbishop Carroll win a rare Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Metro division title. Harbor caught five passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns in one game. In another instance, the opposing team assigned three players to defend against him.
Harbor still has a lot of room to grow on the football field, according to Rivals recruiting director Gorney, but his measurables make it “almost a guarantee” that he could be a first-round NFL draught pick.
“This is someone who is going to set records if he goes to the combine,” Gorney said. “There’s nothing to suggest he wouldn’t. He’s going to astound everyone.”
But first and foremost, there is college. Harbor has spent the past month visiting a few schools on official visits and does not intend to sign a national letter of intent during the early signing period, which begins Wednesday. “Everyone will know where I’m going on February 1,” he said.
While Harbor’s recruiting priorities have been football, he is also interested in each school’s track programme and coaches. Of course, something will have to give between the two sports at some point. Gaining or losing weight to excel in one will have a negative impact on Harbor in the other.
“At the end of the day, my body will tell me which way to go,” he explained. “If going back and forth in weight is too much sometimes, then I’ll have to choose.