The N’Keal Harry Story: Top WR Prospect Fulfilling Destiny
N’Keal Harry, the electrifying wideout from Arizona State, will be waiting for his name to be called during the 2019 NFL Draft with a robust contingent of family and friends. His grandmother, sister, some cousins, aunts, his girlfriend and his mother will be anxiously by his side ready to celebrate. The makeup of Harry’s crew is typical for an NFL prospect, but their reality is anything but. This week marks just the fifth time Harry has seen his mother since he was four-years old.
A son growing up apart from his mom is atypical and often layered with trauma, but the Harry story is not one rooted in tragedy or upheaval. It was born out of love and an opportunity to chase dreams.
Harry was born in Canada, but his mother quickly moved the family to St Vincent and the Grenadines, a mountainous chain of small islands in the southern Caribbean, not far from Venezuela. His father was never in the picture. Still, Harry’s toddler years were filled with joyous family moments and normal milestones. But by the age of 4, Harry’s rare athletic gifts were already apparent. The family knew the young boy would have a short ceiling on the island. Instead of his mother, who felt tethered to her home, his retired grandmother, Felna, volunteered to raise him in the United States where he could thrive in a structured environment dripping with possibility. The family agreed the unconventional plan was best for Harry’s future.
Felna took 4-year-old Harry to Arizona and eventually settled in Chandler, an idyllic Phoenix suburb full of affordable homes, decent schools, an abundance of playgrounds and highly regarded youth sports leagues.
“Chandler gave me a lot of opportunities,” Harry said this week from the headquarters of Panini America where his rookie Trading Card was unveiled. “The amount of organized sports there helped me with my skills. I basically played almost every sport growing up. Arizona is a great place for kids.”
To support Harry, Felna unretired and worked multiple jobs, including graveyard shifts as a caretaker at a hospice facility. While Harry eventually formed an unbreakable bond with his grandmother, he struggled early to understand why his family unit looked so different from most in Chandler. His early childhood was a struggle and he wanted to return to his homeland.
“Growing up it was kind of confusing trying to figure out why I didn’t have my parents with me.,” he says. “But as I got older, I started to mature and realized that life isn’t ideal for everybody. Life throws curveballs at everyone. It’s how you move forward from those curveballs.”
Harry’s grandmother explained the rationale for their stark relocation, how she was best equipped to bring him to the land of opportunity. Eventually Harry embraced his fate, and while he rarely saw his mother and the rest of family during his childhood, they spoke frequently enough that Harry, without hesitation, talks about their strong connection and innumerable similarities with much pride.
“[Harry’s mother] would check on me often and make sure I knew that she was supporting me. My mother did everything she could to stay in the loop.,” he says.
Always comfortable as a multisport athlete and finally at peace with his familial makeup, Harry really started to excel at football and basketball. Around the end of his freshman year at Chandler High School, Harry understood that football was his meal ticket. He loved basketball, but football sang to him. It most matched his brand of athleticism.
“It was hard for me finding kids who were as rough, who were as competitive as me,” he says. “Football is the type of sport that if there’s problems you can settle it on the gridiron, you can hit someone in the mouth.”
Now 6’4” Harry blossomed into an elite big play wideout in high school, slashing opponents for 13 touchdowns and 657 yards his junior season. He was given a five-star recruit label and thus was heavily recruited by many of the nation’s top schools. Ultimately, he chose Arizona State to remain near his grandmother who by this time had become his rock. Harry was now old enough to understand the sacrifices Felna had made to help him realize his dreams.
Harry proved a flashy downfield threat at Arizona State, outmuscling opponents and making jaw-dropping catches including a one-handed beauty on his back that would put Odell Beckham Jr. to shame. Following a 2018 junior season in which he collected 73 catches, 1,088 yards and 9 touchdowns, Harry felt ready for the next level. He declared for the NFL Draft where he is widely considered a top five wide receiver prospect.
When asked about his most special attribute as a receiver, Harry’s focus was not on the tangibles like quick feet or reliable hands. It was his drive and a competitive spirit that would make any NFL GM salivate.
“From the day I was born. I’ve always hated losing more than I’ve loved winning. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing football, basketball, video games or Uno. I want to win at everything I do,” he says.
As Harry puts the whirlwind of draft season behind him, he takes solace in the unfamiliar feeling of having his mother and rest of his family around. One of the reasons Harry has so seldom seen his mother is that attaining a visa is about as easy as facing the Patriots in a Super Bowl. Residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have to fly to Barbados, get a hotel room and are still often denied by the local embassy. His family has gone through this frustrating cycle but this time when they gave their reason for entry into the United States – to be with Harry when he’s drafted – their 10-year Visas were approved. Finally, the family will get to spend time with Harry, be there for one of the top moments of his life, and see him play football live for the first time.
“It means the world, even though they weren’t there with me throughout the years, they were always supporting me. Always following me, watching me. Being able to share this moment is great and really special,” Harry says.
Harry may have grown up 3,500 miles away from most of his family, but his roots were firmly implanted by nature, and his values shaped by his altruistic grandmother.
Harry says he believes his purpose is much greater than football, that he is clamoring to use his new platform. He is already considered starting a sports academy on the island to foster talent, so they don’t have to travel abroad to chase their dreams.
Harry’s mother will stay another week before heading back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines but her visa should be the impetus of more frequent visits. Harry’s not sure if his grandmother will leave the region should he be drafted by a team aside from the Arizona Cardinals.
Whatever happens, he’s at peace with the next chapter. The master plan worked. Harry is about to fulfil the destiny his mother and grandmother envisioned.