When Alcorn State University’s starting quarterback Noah Johnson went out with an injury during the second game of the season versus McNeese State, back up Felix Harper was ready.
“(Noah) always encouraged me,” Harper said. “Throughout the years he always told me ‘you never know when your time will come so always prepare yourself as a starter.’ ”
Harper took the advice to heart. The Georgia native came to practice early and stayed late. He pushed himself hard in the weight room and committed extra time in the off season patiently developing behind Johnson. When it was Harper’s time, the redshirt junior stepped onto the field without pause and commanded the offense. The team didn’t miss a beat. He completed 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
With Johnson out indefinitely, Harper became Alcorn’s choice QB. It’s a position that he inherited due to injury, but has earned due to performance.
Harper, a left-hander, is averaging 238 yards passing per game and has thrown for 29 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season. Nicknamed “Triggerman,” his 61 percent pass completion rate ranks sixth in the nation in offensive efficiency. The three time SWAC Player of the Week has rushed for 154 yards and four touchdowns. After a stellar performance versus Prairie View A&M where he passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, Harper was named the HBCU National Player of the Week. A scholar athlete, Harper is also a nominee for the 2019 C Spire Conerly Trophy which is awarded annually to the state’s most outstanding football player.
The leading role is not new for the Creekside, Ga., High School alumnus. He was his team’s starting quarterback for much of his high school career marching them to a state championship as a sophomore. He also started at the position for Cam Newton’s high school All-Star 7 on 7 team.
Harper’s performance at several of Newton’s 7 on 7 camps caught the young star’s attention. Newton suggested that Harper try out for the travel team. Harper did and won the role. Traveling with the team and spending time in close contact with the NFL star gave the younger QB much needed insight and motivation.
“I’ve got a great connection with (Newton),” Harper said. “He taught me a lot about carrying myself on and off the field with class. It was very exciting to learn the game from him.”
Interestingly, Alcorn’s new field general’s took some hits in the recruiting process because of his size. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Harper is smaller than the traditional college quarterback. As a senior, the three star recruit entertained several college offers including Army, Wake Forest, Alcorn and North Carolina A&T. That year, the latter two teams met in the inaugural Celebration Bowl held at the Georgia Dome. Calls from the opposing coaches to watch the game placed both teams on the recruit’s radar. Alcorn took a loss that night, but their play placed them high on Harper’s radar. A visit to the campus sealed the deal.
“As soon as I landed on campus, it felt like home to me,” Harper said. “I loved the coaches and the relationships I had with them and (when) meeting the other players the connection I had with them. It was just a great experience.”
Harper has one year of football eligibility left and plans to begin work on a graduate degree while competing next season. The Business Administration major is an aspiring entrepreneur and already owns his own clothing line. The business, Felixleuon, features t-shirts and seasonal apparel. He plans to add athletic clothing to the line soon.
The Braves 47-6 mauling of Jackson State on Nov. 23 clinched the SWAC East Division title and the overall top seed in the conference. They will face Southern University in the SWAC Championship Saturday at 3 p.m. at Alcorn on ESPNU. It is likely that Harper will be under center for Alcorn’s first drive of the game. It is a position that Harper didn’t expect, but he appreciates and has embraced it.
“It has been phenomenal not just for me but for this team,” Harper said. “I put God first and I thank him for giving me the opportunity to play. Also, I thank the coaches for allowing me to play and believing in me and my teammates for believing in me.
And as for the SWAC Championship…
“We’re ready,” Harper said.