LOGAN, Utah – Among college football players, there are several shared personalities, traits and interests. Members of a team become close through their shared dedication to the game and the time they spend together.
For Utah State seniors Craig Harrison and Joe Summers, the similarities continue. Both began their football careers at Snow College. After a season as redshirts, both served two-year missions for the LDS Church. They returned from their respective missions to play one more year at Snow JC before transferring to Utah State. That summer between Ephraim and Logan, both Summers and Harrison got married to the girls they’d known and dated for years.
Coming out of successful high school programs, Harrison and Summers made the jump to college, easing into it at the junior college level.
“Snow was like making the step from junior high to high school,” Harrison said. “It was good to be able to go in and play immediately. Going into a four-year school, you kind of have to wait in line. Very few get to start as freshmen.”
Once the pair progressed to the Division I level, they found there was a change of pace to adjust to. While some aspects of the experience were similar to what they knew, there was a lot to figure out and improve on.
“It’s a faster game. Everyone at this level is a lot more talented and a lot more skilled,” Summers said. “You have to rely a lot more on your technique, it’s not about just being bigger and stronger anymore. Everybody is big and strong at this level. It took a lot of time to learn to be a technician.”
Playing college football while trying to manage school is a fairly difficult task. However, being newlyweds as they progressed through the levels of competition presented an entirely new addition to the difficulty of the situation for the two.
“I couldn’t make any of this work without my wife, Lindsey,” Harrison said. “She’s understanding and patient most of the time. She never complains and is supportive of all the time being a student-athlete takes. Without her, it’s not even possible.”
Summers had similar things to say about his wife, Alyssa.
“The key to balancing football and marriage is all because of my wife. She’s the one who supports me and takes care of everything,” he said. “She understands the time that goes into this and supports me 100 percent. She’s putting in double time now, expecting a baby.”
As they’ve spent the last two seasons adjusting to the ways of Utah State football, Harrison and Summers have found their niche and made the most of their time and effort. They have worked hard to establish their respective roles in the offense and found their ways to contribute.
“I like to think that I’m a guy people can count on and come to when they need advice about a play. I want to be able to be there for everyone and help them understand what’s going on football-wise and what they can do to better themselves,” Summers said. “My role is to be there for other guys, helping them understand and play to their best abilities.”
In the span of his college career, Summers has rotated through each position on the offensive line. Now settled at center, he has gotten a solid grasp on the position and the overall scheme of the offense.
“I understand a little more of everyone’s assignment and know what everyone is doing on each play, but you’re supposed to know that as a center anyway,” Summers said. “Having played those positions and knowing what it takes does help.”
Harrison came into a Utah State program that was well-established in the quarterback department. He has been able to work with the group and use his experience to help others learn to be an effective Division I quarterback.
“The biggest thing is mentoring the younger quarterbacks. It’s a stressful position to play. All eyes are on you and when you mess up, everyone knows,” Harrsion said. “I help them get in their playbooks and in the film room. Guys rely on me if they have a question about plays and concepts and routes.”
Coming into the program prior to the 2012 season, Summers and Harrison were joining a successful offense, coordinated by Matt Wells. Now as the head coach, Wells continues to see the effort the pair brings and benefit they are to the team.
“Both have come in and been very valuable members of the team. They are guys who bring it all every day in practice, the off-season and the meeting room,” Wells said.
“They’ve been a great example to the young kids of how to do it the Aggie way. They know what we try to instill in a toughness, leadership and football junkie standpoint. They’ve got it. They are no-maintenance guys who are going to be very successful in life.”
Summers and Harrison came to Logan at the height of the progression of the program. As the success of the team has continued to grow and develop, the two are glad to have been a part of it. It has become a lifestyle for them and their teammates, who now refuse to accept anything less.
“The guys haven’t changed. Their belief in winning, the work ethic, nothing has changed,” Harrison said. “We have a whole new crew of guys, so we’re teaching them the ropes and the way that we do things here.”
Once the team started winning and realized what each person was capable of, they saw the potential they had and worked to capitalize on that.
“It started with a mindset and everybody knowing we could win. I don’t think that was here for a lot of years. That mindset causes us to work a lot harder,” Summers said. “Because of that, we’ve turned the program around and gotten to where we’re at. Now it’s up to us to instill that in everyone that comes in.”
Throughout their shared experiences and similar lifestyles the last few years, Harrison and Summers have worked hard to develop their talents and look forward to applying what they’ve learned outside of football.
“You have to really put a lot of time and effort into your craft. That time we put in as student-athletes can translate really well to life outside of football,” Summers said. “Putting in the time and work can really set you apart from other people.”
Whatever lies ahead in life doesn’t have the pair worried. They’ve had valuable experience these last few years that has them ready to take on the world as both have already graduated from Utah State with bachelor degrees in exercise science.
“This has taught me how to work. This entire experience has helped me. I’ll be a better husband, a better father, a better employee,” Harrison said. “There are skills we’ve learned here that I think are taken for granted a little bit. It’s just helped me be a better person,”
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