In his playing days, Gary “Flea” Harrell was listed at a slight 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds.
Not exactly an ideal height for a wide receiver right?
Even after he left Miami Northwestern High School as one of the school’s top receivers, doubters still questioned his playing abilities. But the doubters forgot something.
Harrell had two things on his side – confidence and the ability to play football extremely well.
“He was a competitive player. He had a lot of heart and a tremendous work ethic,” said Rattler Head Coach Rubin Carter.
During his coaching tenure at Howard University in 1989, Carter was one of the coaches that recruited Harrell despite his height and weight deficiencies.
“Coach Carter came to my home in Miami to visit me and my mother,” Harrell said.
“He was the defensive coordinator at the time, but he told me he wanted to give me a full scholarship. That is usually the head coach’s job, but he really believed in me.”
Carter’s gamble paid off. Harrell moved to the nation’s capital and gave Bison fans little reason to doubt him.
“Gary was a tremendous player on punt returns and as a receiver. He was one of the best players in the MEAC at Howard,” Carter said.
But there was a problem. Harrell was dominating the right division, but it was not for the home team.
“I kind of always wanted to be a Rattler you know, being from South Florida and all,” Harrell said.
“But I just never got the opportunity to. Howard was willing to give me a chance to play college football, so I had to take it, ” Harrell said.
Harrell didn’t let the Rattler staff forget their oversight. “One of my best memories came in my sophomore year in a game against FAMU. The score was tied 14-14, and I returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown,” Harrell said.
After graduating with a degree in marketing, Harrell took his talents to the NFL and played for the New York Giants.
But in his bid to play in the NFL, Harrell heard many of the same critics.
“You know people were saying that I wouldn’t be able to play in the NFL because of my size. But I did get there, so I got some satisfaction out of that,” Harrell said.
After leaving the NFL, Harrell joined his former team on the sidelines as Howard’s wide receivers coach.
But it wasn’t long before a familiar face came knocking on Harrell’s door.
Carter was now the head coach of the team Harrell was taught to despise.
Carter needed Harrell’s help molding his receiving core. “It was important for me to bring in someone who could teach and mentor,” Carter said. Harrell joined FAMU as wide receivers coach in 2006.
“I always wondered while I was at Howard what if I coached at FAMU, you know. FAMU has such rich tradition, it feels good to be a part of that,” Harrell said.
“Man, Coach Harrell is probably the best receiver coach I have had. I used to just do everything based on my athletic ability, but now he is teaching me the ins and outs of the position,” said senior receiver Roosevelt Kiser.
While the Rattler receivers enjoy his expertise, Harrell continues to soak up the Rattler experience he always wanted.
“I just try and take what I have learned and make our guys better football players,” Harrell said. “I think I am blessed to be here. I am very happy to be under the FAMU umbrella.”