The 2020 stars of college football were recognized at the beginning of the month at the College Football Awards. An event that in previous years had been held in Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame was instead held virtually on Thursday, Jan. 7. Among the winners was Tech’s own senior Pressley Harvin III, who took home the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter.
Harvin joined Durant Brooks, the only other Jacket to win the award, and became the first African American athlete to receive the honor. Harvin is Tech’s third unanimous All-American, following wide receiver Calvin Johnson in 2006 and defensive back Ken Swilling in 1990. His unanimous All-American nod makes this the sixth consecutive year that a punter has achieved that feat.
Harvin’s season was more than just the best season by a punter this year, it may have been the best season by any punter in ACC history. His 48 yards per punt was the highest gross average ever in the ACC, and nearly half of his punts were 50-plus yards. Only around a sixth of his kicks were returned and 40% ended their roll inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Tech’s net punting average of 44.6 yards per punt ranked second nationally this season.
2020 was not the only season where Harvin was a star. In 2019, he punted 80 times for an average of nearly 45 yards, and over his career he kicked 210 times for an average of about 44.7 yards. He handled a handful of trick plays during his time at Tech as well, most notably against the Miami Hurricanes in 2019. On a 4th and 7 near the end of the first quarter at Miami’s 41-yard line, Harvin took the snap and dropped a perfect ball to Nathan Cottrell for a touchdown. The toss was a pivotal moment in an eventual Tech win, and was one of the notable moments that cemented Harvin as a fan favorite.
Harvin’s journey to where he is today began to take off at Sumter High School in Sumter, South Carolina. He was the fourth ranked punter nationally and was a top-30 recruit in his state. At a press conference after winning the Ray Guy, he discussed the impact his play left on the school, saying “[I like] being able to know that there’s definitely a legacy that I was able to bring to Tech as well as to leave here now and have paved the way for other African American specialists that are behind me, too. I have a really good couple of friends of mine that played at high school with me, a good stat about that ever since I’ve been there when I graduated in 2017, there’s been, I think, three to four different African American specialists, after me.”
Later on the call, when asked how it feels to be the first African American to win the Ray Guy, he spoke about the lack of diversity at the position: “I would go to Kohl’s professional kicking camps and just being around a big group of guys … and being one of I think maybe three or four other [African American] specialists that were there at the time, was definitely eye opening to me.” He speaks about how he was one of only a few African American specialists on a roster in 2020, then reflected on the drive that has given him over the years, remarking that “being one of the ones to pave the way, I think that’s definitely something I’ll always look back on as being that one of three to four at every camp, kind of like the underdog type of perspective.”
Before Harvin joined the call, Tech Head Coach Geoff Collins joined and talked about him for a bit. When asked about his first impression of Harvin, Collins joked about his disbelief that Harvin was the punter, saying, “There were first impressions, first meetings that I’ll never forget, and Pressley Harvin was definitely one of those. I mean I thought he was the middle linebacker, and when he told me he was the punter, I was astounded.”
Those who have seen Harvin know what Collins means. Harvin is listed at six feet tall and 255 pounds, and his enormous legs are hard to miss. Videos of him squatting well over 500 pounds have circulated on social media.
Based on how fondly Collins speaks of Harvin, it is apparent that his popularity is just as high among those close to him as it is among those who know of him from afar. Collins, who refers to Harvin as “Press”, is aware of the fan love surrounding his big punter. “You see the memes that are Pressley Harvin memes,” said Collins.
“Or things that get retweeted or quote tweeted about him. It’s just scratching the surface of what a special, special man Pressley is and how much he means to this program, and [I’m] just really, really happy for him.”
The memes about Harvin are a good indicator of his presence off the field, which rivals his presence on it. Online, even besides the memes Collins mentioned, he has carved out his own following, boasting a verified Instagram page (@pharvin27) with nearly 10,000 followers as well as a Twitter account (@pharvin27) with close to 2,000 followers of its own, and he is working on getting verified.
He has found a platform for his interests off the field, primarily working on custom vehicles, including his own.
His car has 1,000+ followers on Instagram (@badblacktop2.4) and he shows off the work he has put into his other passions. The custom Dodge Dart can be seen and heard rumbling around campus and is almost as recognizable as the man himself. He uses both his car and his socials as a platform to advocate for social issues, including stickers under the front grille of his ride spelling “#BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
Harvin declared for the NFLdraft in December, and as the top punter to do so he has a shot at landing on an NFL roster this fall.
While rarely a position in high demand since only 32 slots are usually available at a time, a team with field position trouble may draft him to replace a struggling player or put pressure on in training camp.
Any team that picks up Pressley Harvin III will be gaining a talented punter with a positive locker room presence, and, as evidenced by that certain play in the 2019 Miami game, a pretty good arm too.