Growing up in England, Jack Harrison had little knowledge of Drafts, Homegrown deals or Generation adidas offers. Yet, over the past few weeks, the former Wake Forest star has become quite acquainted with the various roster mechanisms that will now determine his future home.
Prior to his time with the Demon Deacons, Harrison emerged as the 2015 Gatorade National Boy’s Soccer Player of the Year while with Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass. The transition to the college game proved seamless, as the midfield prospect tallied eight goals and 11 assists in his lone NCAA campaign.
Those numbers caught the eye of New York City FC, who hoped to add the English midfielder as a Homegrown prospect due to his affiliation with youth affiliate Manhattan Soccer Club. The league denied that claim, as Harrison now enters a draft process that he continues to learn on the fly.
“It just kind of happened. I wasn’t even familiar with the Homegrown contract,” Harrison told SBI. “Even the Generation adidas contract required so much explaining to me. It just kind of happened and I wasn’t really aware of it.
“I wasn’t really sure what to think of it really. I always said it would be nice to play in New York under Patrick Vieira. It would be a dream for almost every kid out there that wants to player soccer. To play alongside the links of (Andrea) Pirlo, (Frank) Lampard, (David) Villa, it’s just a great place to play, really, but at the same time, I knew there was a possibility that it wouldn’t work out, so I wasn’t banking on that working. I had to keep an open mind because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Harrison admitted that he has heard that NYCFC remains among several clubs interested taking him in Thursday’s Draft, an event in which Harrison is expected to be one of the top picks.
A member of the Manchester United academy from the age of 7, Harrison departed the club when he was 14. From there, Harrison attended boarding school at Berkshire in a move that the midfielder says helped make him into the man and player he is today.
While at Berkshire, Harrison was forced to adapt to a new country, school and culture. Thrust into a boarding school routine that proved unfamiliar, Harrison adapted to the educational demands while continuing to hone his skills as a soccer player.
According to Harrison, it proved to be for the best. While at Berkshire, Harrison says he was thoroughly impressed by the soccer culture he encountered following his European move as he became influenced by the melting pot of talent from countries all over the world.
“We decided to leave, which was a big decision,” Harrison said of departing Manchester United. “As a young kid, it’s every kid’s dream to make it as a professional and make it up through the academy there. A lot of people say it was the wrong decision, but I think it was the best decision I could have done. Going to Berkshire was definitely one of the best decisions I could have made and one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life, so far anyways. I think the fact that I could obtain a good education as well as play soccer, that was always a big part of it. Also, just being in America is a whole new experience.
“It was a hard decision to sign (with MLS) as well, but I think this is for the better,” Harrison added. “I’d love to play in Europe somewhere in one of the top levels, but I think if I can prove myself here first, I can get an understanding of where I am. It can only help me.”
As he prepares to embark on his journey as a professional, Harrison remains uncertain about where he will call home, both on and off the field. Played mainly centrally in college, Harrison says several teams have expressed interest in featuring him out wide, while several others see him as a more central playmaker.
However, before his true position can be sorted, the first step of Harrison’s MLS jump will come in Thursday’s MLS Draft. With it comes an end to the uncertainty as Harrison takes another step into the unknown while pursuing his lifelong dream of achieving the title of professional.
“I wasn’t really familiar, but I knew it was very complicated but I never really understood how it works until this year,” Harrison said. “In England, obviously you sign with a club so you know where you’re going. I think its an exciting time right now, just to relax down here and make the most of it before you know where you’re going.
“Some people ask me if I’m nervous, but I’m more excited than anything just to see where I end up.”