Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Storm

James Harrell's touchdowns spark Storm's turnaround

TAMPA — It didn't take long for James Harrell to learn the ways of Arena Football.

He came into his rookie season last year with the typical swagger of any successful defensive back.

"I was like 'Man, nobody can score on me,' " he said. "That was something I took a lot of pride in."

But as the scoreboard continued to ring like a pinball machine, Harrell knew he was in a different world.

"Yeah, things didn't exactly happen like I thought they would," Harrell said with a chuckle. "One thing you have to work on is a short term memory."

But in terms of recent memory, Harrell has provided Storm fans plenty to cheer about. The second-year defensive back has an interception and touchdown in back-to-back games, helping Tampa Bay to consecutive wins on the heels of a five-game losing streak. The Storm (5-6) will go for three in a row tonight when it hosts Philadelphia (6-5) at 5 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"James has been making plays on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams," coach Lawrence Samuels said. "He's been a big part of our turnaround."

Harrell said the team had to fight off the memories of last year when the Storm lost eight straight to end its season.

"For some of the guys who were around from last year, we had that feeling like it was (2013) all over again," he said. "But we got together and knew we had to change the mind-set."

If the Harrell name rings a bell, it's because the family has deep roots in the Bay area football scene. Harrell's father, James Jr., starred at Chamberlain High before playing at Florida and eventually the NFL. The younger Harrell graduated from Plant and his brother, Anthony, finished up at Jesuit and is currently a linebacker at Georgia Tech.

"My Dad always took us to Bucs, USF and Storm games growing up," James Harrell said. "I always liked the Arena game because it was fast, exciting and had loud music."

Harrell hauled in an interception and had a net recovery for a touchdown against Jacksonville on May 24 to help the Storm snap its losing skid. He then returned a 19-yard interception for a touchdown and another net recovery for a touchdown last week in the Storm's 62-48 win at New Orleans.

"I'm a ball hawk and those (net recoveries on kickoffs) are something we work on in practice," Harrell said. "Our kicker (Juan Bongarra) is good at banging them off the pole to give that awkward bounce. And my eyes get real big when I see a loose ball."

Harrell said, "We all want to reach the NFL," but he's "all in for the AFL" right now. And his next step might not be too far away from the game — coaching. His father has coached at Plant, Jesuit and Freedom and Harrell worked with Plant's defensive backs in 2012.

"I loved (coaching at Plant)," Harrell said. I like working with young talent and recognizing it. Coaching is something I'm definitely looking forward to."