Siegel football coach Greg Wyant needed to only point to three football plays during Denzel Harding’s career to show how elusive the senior standout running back was on the high school football field.
Two of those plays tied a state record. The third missed a state record by a yard.
Harding, who is today named The Daily News Journal’s 2013 Offensive Player of the Year, had a pair of 99-yard TD runs — one in each of the past two seasons. And he returned an interception 108 yards for a TD — a yard shy of the record set 13 years ago.
“That just shows that he can take it to the house any time he touches the ball,” Wyant said. “If you were a fan in the stands, you held your breath when he touched it because there was always a possibility of him busting it for a score.”
Harding was a three-year starter for the Stars at running back, helping the Stars to a 29-9 record over that span including an 8-4 record this season. Harding finished with 1,188 yards on 129 carries with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 298 yards with three more touchdowns.
However, Harding’s statistics came in a new roll this season for the Stars.
Graduation losses and injuries forced Harding to spend more time at inside receiver on offense. He also started the season at cornerback before moving to safety due to injuries.
But Harding never complained.
“It wasn’t really hard to change positions,” said Harding, who was Siegel’s second Mr. Football finalist in as many seasons. “I’m not a selfish player. I wasn’t raised like that. If I had to change positions to make my team better, that’s what I’m going to do.”
For Harding, sacrificing for the team also meant playing injured.
In a season where Siegel was decimated with injuries during the season, Harding played through an assortment of injuries.
An ankle injury, that bothered him some as a junior, also flared up this season. He had an ankle injury that he never told coaches about. And both shoulders were injured at one point this season.
But Harding played on.
“I re-injured my knee against La Vergne and played through it. I had to put my brace on,” said Harding, who was named the District 7-AAA Player of the Year. “I hurt both of my shoulders.
“In the Riverdale game, I played with one arm. I was dragging my left arm around. I had to just battle through it.”
Harding just wanted to do his part to help the Stars win games. If that meant playing with pain, he did it. If he had to change positions, he did that as well.
But that also meant rarely leaving the football field.
“All he wanted was the wins,” Wyant said. “He hardly ever came off the field. He had that 108-yard return out of our end zone, and then I turn around and he’s on our kickoff coverage. He was probably one of the most in-shape kids in the state.”