Around this time last year, John Harris got his initial interest on the recruiting trail. His first two major offers came from North Carolina – on June 17 – and Virginia Tech just five days after.
Three hundred and fifty three days later, the Georgian made his decision.
He'll be a Hokie, as announced on Saturday.
"Every time I visited there, it felt right," the 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive lineman said. "I felt like I could see myself going there. I have a really good relationship with all the coaches, I felt like I could see myself playing for them."
Harris wasted no time in response to a query about Tech's initial interest. Did the early connection mean more than say, schools who got in the game amid the season or those who came after last signing day's completion?
"Yes, very much so," the 17 year old replied of his 31-offer journey.
Harris' coach, Shannon Jarvis, thinks the new, early signing period benefitted his big man in the trenches.
"This is a case where I think it's a positive thing for the school and the outlet," Jarvis said. "John, he's done. He's a firm commitment, he'd sign the papers if they were in front of him.
"He's very analytical and if he visited somewhere, he did his homework behind it and why. Just very strategic and analytical in his decision making."
The 2017 campaign will mark Harris' third as a starter for Mill Creek High School, located in the Atlanta suburb of Hoschton. In the Hawks' offense, he played tackle for the shotgun-based scheme.
A bevy of running backs and power rush game will see Harris move inside to the strong-side guard spot. The lone returner off a solid line last year, he could possibly see time at center, too. Mill Creek primarily zone blocks.
"My strength is my footwork, the quickness of my feet," he explained.
But, some other attributes stood out to the Hokies' staff.
"They like my hands, the way I can work them," Harris said. "That, my feet and just my nastiness."
He's listed as the No. 41 prospect at guard in the nation, per 247Sports Composite rankings.
Originally, Jarvis and his staff penciled in Harris as a defensive lineman early in his career with the long-term plan to put him on the offensive line. However, injuries allowed the youngster an opportunity to rep out on offense sooner rather than later as a sophomore.
Film grades made Jarvis' decision for him.
"It's really his athleticism that stands out," the 14-year head coach said. "He came into our program in ninth grade as a tight end, a defensive line-type player. He just bends well for his size and you put that with his work ethic, it makes him a great football player.
"He's been tremendous for us. He's one who to me, will only get better when he's in college because of his internal drive. One question I get from coaches is, is this a kid who loves football? Sometimes, I question how much a kid might love the sport. John is a young man who just loves playing football and preparing to play football. I think he's got unlimited potential."
A May offer from Michigan State prompted Harris to visit East Lansing last weekend. He'd narrowed his list down to Tech and the Spartans.
Once he took the trip up north, the articulate high schooler made up his mind.
"I took the visit and things went well but it was kind of too far away and maybe not as good a fit as Virginia Tech," he detailed. "That kind of sealed the deal for me."
A sturdy bond with offensive line coach Vance Vice made an impact.
Vice represented Harris' primary recruiter. A no-nonsense approach helped galvanize that relationship.
"I thought he was very genuine and didn't try to put on a face in recruiting," Harris said of Vice, who followed head coach Justin Fuente from Memphis to Blacksburg last year. "He told me straight up, 'John, I don't really know how to do all this recruiting stuff,' and I liked that because that's who he really is and not some fake persona. I was glad to see that."
Despite his humility, it's clear Vice does pretty well on the trail. Jarvis took note of that.
"I deal with a lot of recruiters and (Vice) did a phenomenal job recognizing John early," Jarvis, who saw 16 of his 2016 class sign to play college ball and more than 10 in each of the past five years. "He looked at a couple of older lineman and asked, 'What's the deal with him?'
"What I'm about to say would probably shock a lot of fans, but a lot of college coaches, they aren't sure what they're looking for and they're taking advice of others. Some know exactly what they're looking for and they could care less where a kid's ranked or any of that."
Vice fit the mold of someone who knew the skillset he needed. That desire led him to Harris and that early interest that ended up a crucial part of his desire to wear orange and maroon.
"We had two or three other highly recruited kids who were older than Johnny, what I saw was he knew exactly what he liked about Johnny. He knew exactly what he saw. You can tell the coaches who know exactly what they're looking for and they're the ones who traditionally, in coaching, have success."
After "four or five" visits to campus, Harris knew his comfort with the Hokies as authentic.
He also connected the dots that many Tech fans hoped would become reality after Fuente's first go around at the helm.
A 10-win season to start the tenure opened new avenues for top players across the eastern seaboard and in some cases, the country.
"I think they're starting to get that image that they're starting to kind of get up there," Harris said. "They almost beat Clemson in the ACC championship and that was (the staff's) first year.
"I think it's going to be very special once Fuente gets all his guys in here. Other recruits see that as well. That's a big reason I picked Virginia Tech as well, I think we can win and do big things."
One of the most interesting subplots of Harris' journey is the role a former teammate played. Tyler Fannon – a fellow offensive lineman at Mill Creek – and his family walked the Harris' through the process ... "Our offensive linemen want to know why, every detail of why we're doing things," Jarvis said. "Not so much the blocking but the footwork. That's one thing John and Tyler always wanted to know. They want to be coached hard on every play and every down. I'm joking, but they always get instant feedback from our coaches. As our lineman get recruited and we've been fortunate to have a couple go on to play major football, they know what they want out of coaches. They want all those details ... John is very analytical and a student of the game and we had two of them on the line last year. They want to know why, every detail of why we're doing things. Not so much the blocking but the footwork. That's one thing John and Tyler always wanted to know. They want to be coached hard on every play and every down." ... Fannon committed to play at UVa. ... "It's kind of funny now because he's going to Virginia and I'm going to Virginia Tech," Harris said. "But, he was very congratulating." ... Harris enjoyed his time at Tech when he and his family had a chance to meet with Fuente ... "He was very laid back, which was kind of different because my high school coach, he's not a screamer, but he's very passionate. I wouldn't say coach Fuente isn't passionate, but it was different. We sat down, him and my whole family and kind of talked about everything. It was nice to see him when he's not coaching then to see him coaching, it was nice to see both sides of him," he said ... Another influence in Harris' decision is the major he wants to study, geosciences ... "They have a major I really like, and they're really good at it," he said. "I wanted to do something where I could travel and work outside and that's kind of what you do. Also, I like science and that's really been my strong suit throughout high school." ... The outdoorsy nature of Harris is shown in how he spends his free time ... He frequently camps and hikes with friends near his home ... As a youth in Georgia, Harris rooted for Miami ... "This is kind of different now," he joked ... On his star's natural acclimation to the Hokies' offense, Jarvis said: "We're a power running game out of shotgun. Make no mistake – inside zone, outside zone and power. Our schemes are similar to what Virginia Tech does. But, I always tell people, 'We run the Mill Creek offense.' I do feel the schemes could be similar. He's just versatile. He takes shotgun snaps every day at practice and we do have a tremendous amount of confidence that he could do the job at center too."