Discord is the driving force behind college football: Michigan did nothing wrong in stealing signs, unless they did. Alabama’s championship run is over, unless they’re back. One thing people have an easy enough time agreeing on? Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. stands out as one of the premier prospects ever seen at his position.
In less than six months, Harrison will be a first-round NFL draft pick, the second from his family to accomplish the feat (his father, Marvin Sr., is enshrined in Canton). The junior from Philly has a chance to become the first wide receiver to be selected No. 1 overall since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.
Over 36 college games, Harrison has caught 147 passes for 29 touchdowns. Pretty good for someone who logged just five catches for 68 yards over his first 12 games playing behind three first-round NFL wideouts as a freshman. Despite regularly facing double teams, Harrison has produced a Heisman-worthy campaign this year, with 13 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards, the first receiver in Ohio State history to log two 1,000-yard campaigns. He also found time to clock 22.2 miles per hour, faster than any NFL player managed to register a season ago.
GQ caught up with Harrison as he prepared for what is likely to be the final leg of his Ohio State career. Harrison told GQ about his uninherited style, that night he lit up the internet in some designer cleats and a dead Apple Watch, and more.
When I think of the Indianapolis Colts of the early 2000s, with Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday, I think of perhaps the most unstylish team ever. And no knock on your dad, but I see him as more of a button-down-and-jeans kind of guy rather than a fashion mogul. So I have to ask: Where does your fashion sense come from?
Marvin Harrison, Jr: I gained it over time. It’s a new age of social media and you get a lot of ideas from other people and create your own style from it. I always want to look good everywhere I go. You never know who you’re gonna see or what someone’s first impression might be, so just look nice! It’s a good first impression.
And what does your dad think of your style?
[Laughs] He thinks it’s too much, all the time. He’s a very simple guy. He wears like three or four sweatpants or sweatsuits; just rotates those throughout the week. He has a couple of pair of jeans here and there, but definitely nothing too flashy. So we’re opposites in that area.
The Louis Vuitton cleats and Apple Watch you rocked for the Wisconsin game in 2022 got a lot of love. The world wants to know: Were you tracking the workout on the watch?
What’s funny is my watch is always dead — it’s never on. So it wasn’t even on during the game. Nothing was tracked.
So it was a pure fashion power move?
Not even for fashion! It’s just something I never take off. I warm up with it on so it just kind of caught everyone’s attention. I had it on in previous games and it just never caught anyone’s eye.
Is there a chance we see the cleats make another appearance or are they locked up in a trophy case somewhere?
Yeah, I definitely won’t bring those out again [laughs].
You seem like a very positive, personable guy. What happens when you hit a football field that makes you a destroyer? Because there are stories of your tenacity in practice and on game day which seem very different from the version of Marvin Harrison Jr. that the public gets to see off the field.
Absolutely. I definitely flip that switch. I don’t have the Black Mamba personality, but I definitely feel like, you know, I become a different person on the field. It’s all business at that point.
Where’d you pick that up from?
Definitely from my dad. He just instilled in me from an early age: Take football very seriously, take anything that you do very seriously. I have a love for the game and want to go out there and perform to the best that I can and help my team win. So that flashiness, anything like that, it goes out the window as soon as I step on the field.
Ohio State has recently had no problem putting receivers in the NFL, typically in the first round. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was arguably the best route-runner in his class. Garrett Wilson was a burner. Chris Olave was fluid. I’m curious what you think separates you from your peers right now.
Just the total package, really. I think I have the route-running ability. I have the speed. I can change direction like smaller receivers, at my size—6’4″, 200-plus pounds. I think having the total package really separates me from the rest.
I actually enjoyed it my first year learning from Garrett and Chris, and just seeing the best college receivers at that time. I saw them practice each and every day, so I just tried to do my best to learn from them. I knew my time would come eventually. And I was ready for my moment when the Rose Bowl came. But it was great having those guys mentor me and help me along the way.
It can be easy to forget now since you’re on this streak of ridiculous performances but the season opener against Indiana wasn’t a SportsCenter showing (2 receptions, 18 yards). Was there any concern from you that despite all the offseason work you put in, teams would double or bracket you out of the gameplan?
You kind of knew going into the season that every defense we’d play would be asked where No. 18 is on the field. So you’ve got to work through that. But I know it’s a long season. I knew the rest of the games weren’t going to be like that. I put my head down and kept working. All that matters to me is that we got the win that day.
SuperMarv? Marvelous Marvin? Maserati Marv? Are you a nickname guy? And do you have a preference?
I’m not much of a nickname guy, but I get a lot of them. Just Marv is the probably the one I like most [laughs].
You’re lined up all over the place, in the slot, on the outside, everwhere. Do you have a preference or an area you feel most comfortable?
Whatever is needed. Being out wide, it’s easier for the opponent to know where I’m at and to give me the double team. But it’s a lot harder in the slot. Wherever I’m at, I pick through the coverage. I make it challenging for defensive coordinators to gameplan because I don’t line up in one spot. I can line up anywhere on the field.
If I asked you to put on your defensive coordinator hat and scheme yourself out of a play, what would you do?
Well, you definitely have to have a guy over the top. Someone with speed, durability. And you can’t give me the easy stuff underneath. Having two defenders—that’s your best bet.
It hasn’t been a great month for your archrival, but that showdown is coming up. You’ve been on the losing end of that game twice. I’m sure you’re not overlooking the rest of the schedule. But for those who don’t understand The Rivalry, how would you describe your focus and your team’s focus to break that losing streak in Ann Arbor?
That’s something we all worry about. Since that game last year, we’ve been focused on that game: All year, all through the back of our heads. When we come to Ohio State, it’s the one game that everybody looks forward to. Unfortunately, I haven’t won a game. It’s been tough to get past those losses. But this year, we’re definitely ready. I need to get a win against them before I head out.
A lot of athletes have a special, lesser-known ingredient that helps them perform and keeps them balanced. Maybe it’s late-night pilates or Chipotle or painting. What’s that ingredient for you?
My bible. I continue to pray, to pursue my faith as much as I can outside of football. And so that’s one thing that I probably would say is a main ingredient for me.
What do you want your legacy to be in Columbus?
I don’t want anyone to remember the awards, touchdowns, yards, whatever it may be. I just want people to remember the person who I was, you know? In the building, how was I as a teammate? How was my work ethic? I think my legacy will be my work ethic and the influence I had on my teammates. Most important is that I was the guy that treated everyone equally and said hi to everyone. I just want that to be remembered for that.