Nick Harris isn’t entirely sure how it all happened.
He graduated from California powerhouse JSerra Catholic, the same program that sent wide receiver Dante Pettis earlier to the University of Washington than when he arrived.
Oddly enough, he wasn’t even the high school lineman from his class to be named a 2016 U.S. Army All-American. Luke Wattenberg, a reserve lineman with the Huskies, received that nod.
For an offensive lineman at an FBS school, Harris came into college a modest 6-foot-1, 270 pounds.
And yet, Harris remembers the day last fall camp vividly. He went into a roll-call meeting with former Huskies offensive line coach Chris Strausser, who has since then caught on with the Denver Broncos.
Strausser informed Harris the team was considering playing him early.
“I was thrown off a little bit,” Harris said. “Coming in here, I wasn’t highly recruited. I wasn’t big — I was 6-1. I wasn’t expecting to play at all.”
Harris played in 12 games. And when he made his first career start at left guard against Utah, he became just the second true freshman to even start on the offensive line under coach Chris Petersen. The first was teammate Trey Adams.
With 10 days remaining before the season opener at Rutgers, Harris is still the young guy. But he isn’t the new guy anymore.
“He has definitely stepped up his game a lot this year,” Huskies center Coleman Shelton said. “When it comes to knowledge of the game, he knows what he is doing. He knows techniques. He is definitey a smart player. And he’s gotten lot of confidence in himself because he has a year under his belt.”
At the team’s live scrimmage Saturday, Harris graded out as one of the top offensive linemen in the game, first-year UW offensive line coach Scott Huff said.
“He’s done a lot of stuff in the offseason to improve his body, improve his strength, improve his game,” Huff said. “He’s gotten smarter and smarter. We’ve even played him at center in camp.”
Harris knew he could not stay at 270 pounds and survive a full career in the Pac-12.
So he made getting bigger his No. 1 offseason goal.
“I was 274 pounds for the Alabama game, and I am up to 293 now,” Harris said. “That was my main goal ... to try and put on weight, and put on some good muscle just so I could feel comfortable against bigger guys.”
Harris said he has improved his “punch” in staving off oncoming pass rushers.
“I am usually a bull-rush target, so I’m just trying to stun guys right off the line,” Harris said.
Harris is a prime candidate to not only take his game to the next level, but also enhance his reputation around the conference — even the country.
“Obviously last year, nobody in the country knew who I was. Nobody even thought I would play ... but I was eager to learn,” Harris said. “This camp, I’ve got the playbook down a little more. It is about expecting things, and reacting to things more than just learning the basic fundamentals.”
Earlier Tuesday, Huskies middle linebacker Azeem Victor was named a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press, and defensive tackle Vita Vea was an AP second-team selection. ... The Huskies hold a closed practice Wednesday, followed by a day off Thursday before being available to reporters again after a morning practice Friday.