HARRIS RELISHING NORTHAMPTON EXPERIENCE
After a four year stint at Oakland University and a summer in the PDL, Michigan native Sebastian Harris was passed over by MLS only to be given the chance of a lifetime at League Two club Northampton Town.
Harris is the latest name of a growing list of players with European heritage to make a splash overseas after rising through the lower echelons of US and collegiate soccer.
But while players like Anton Peterlin were grabbing headlines by making the seemingly impossible jump from the PDL to Everton in the Premier League, Harris, the son of English parents, was given his chance in a more modest fashion when his uncle pulled a few strings with some contacts at the club and scored his nephew a trial.
"My uncle knew someone with the Cobblers and made a call and was able to get me a trial," he explained to Yanks Abroad. "The next thing I knew I was on a plane going to England for my trial."
"It happened really quickly. I basically only packed my soccer clothes, having no idea how long I would be there. I just packed up and left and went to follow my dream.
"I didn't know what to expect....It was just a great feeling to get a trial."
The journey to the start of his life as a professional seemed unlikely, playing at Division 1 Oakland University while living at home in Oakland, Michigan. Harris didn't get a scholarship his first year and had to pay for school himself while playing for the Golden Grizzlies, but impressed immediately and was given a scholarship before his second year.
The striker scored 12 times and notched nine assists in his three scholarship years at Oakland University, graduating in 2009. After the completion of the PDL season that summer, Harris made the jump abroad.
"It was hard at first since I obviously didn't know anyone at the club and was trying to fit in," he recalled. "Playing wise, it was different.
"You have to be stronger, quicker, and need a better first touch since the game moves so fast. Training has really been magnificent and I'm having a lot of fun."
Harris made two appearances in the Cobblers preseason, a full 90 minutes against Coventry and a substitute appearance against Sheffield Wednesday. A regular first team member, Harris is a normal placement on the game day roster, though not translating to playing time in the games. But when the time came for his debut, the Michigan native knew what was expected of him.
"I made my debut against Crewe Alexandra and played the last 15 minutes," he remembered. "It was an unreal experience.
"I always keep my kit folded, and when Ian [Northampton coach Ian Sampson] said 'Okay Seb, let's go' I wasn't nervous. I just unfolded my jersey and put it on and told myself, 'It's time. Time to go. Time to shine.
"I had tons of adrenalin. It was unforgettable, especially hearing the fans chant, 'Go on, Seb!' It was really one of the best feelings in the world."
The striker was also handed a debut in the FA Cup for Northampton in their 3-2 defeat against Southampton. It was a largely one sided affair, with Southampton cruising to a three goal lead before Northampton decided to start playing.
"I think I played well in both games," he explained. "I just told myself while I was out there to keep running and try to win every ball.
"I used my height and won several head balls. I felt good and it was a great feeling knowing that I played in an FA Cup second round match when most players never get to play in that tournament."
Stuart Grey coached Northampton from 2007-2009, and was the coach to bring Harris into the fold. Northampton were relegated from League One at the end of the 2008 season, and left the club after six games with the club floundering in 16th position. Ian Sampson was then appointed, and Harris did well to impress the new boss.
"He likes me and says that I'm getting better with every training [session]," he said. "He believes that you have to show that you want to play when you are in training.
"He thinks that I'm a good, hard worker and they told me that they see something in me. It's a positive atmosphere," he concluded.
Harris will hope that his work ethic will prove fruitful over the long haul as Northampton Town continue to surge up the League Two standings with an outside chance of pushing for a promotion play off place towards the end of the season.