The mention of his name alone can give defensive coordinators an ulcer. A nightmare matchup for defenders, this wide receiver/running back is the perfect weapon in Florida's spread option offense. When he gets his hands on the football, he becomes like the bullet in the movie Wanted, the one that is engraved with "goodbye." Goodbye as in, game over.
With the possible exception of Reggie Bush, there hasn't been a player this explosive in college football since Rocket Ismail was doing it all at Notre Dame. Percy Harvin can change the game at any time, whether he is on the field or not.
The Human Highlight Reel
Pick a play, any play, from Percy Harvin's career to define his ability, and the obvious ones always come up: the backbreaker run against Arkansas, the direct snap against Florida State—any of them will do. But there is one play that is not so obvious that truly defines him.
In the 2006 game at Auburn, late in the second quarter, Florida had a 1st-and-10 around midfield. The score was close, 10-8 in favor of Florida. Here is what happened next:
Harvin took the pitch from Chris Leak and hustled towards the right hash mark, where he was cut off by Auburn's defense for a one-yard loss—until Harvin broke the tackle, cut back against the grain, and went five yards deep in the backfield with seven Auburn defenders in pursuit.
He would have been stopped five yards deep by the safety that came flying in, but the safety whiffed badly due to a small juke, and Harvin was off to the races. He eventually was knocked out of bounds around the 10-yard line.
The Auburn game was the first real look at his explosiveness on the college level.
Missing in Action
If there is any knock on Percy Harvin at all, it's that he hasn't played a full season of football in the three years he has been at Florida. Problems with his ankles, heel, and a sinus infection have forced him to miss all of five games, and parts of others. None of the games he has missed were bigger than last week's SEC Championship Game.
Although Florida was undefeated in games without him, and remained so after the game, the impact of his departure was huge. This wasn't a game against Hawai'i or Florida Atlantic that he was missing. This was the SEC Championship, against No. 1 Alabama, for a chance to play for a BCS Championship. This wasn't a game to sit out.
Harvin's absence drew Florida together. Players stepped up and made plays. Before Saturday's game, the only thing David Nelson was known for was being called out on national TV by Regis Philbin for decommiting from Notre Dame. He caught a touchdown.
Riley Cooper and Louis Murphy made huge catches. Tim Tebow put the team on his shoulders and made good on his promise. Florida won a game of meaning without its best all-around player.
Back in the Saddle
On Jan. 8, Florida will play Oklahoma for the BCS National Championship. Florida could probably beat Oklahoma without Percy Harvin. They will beat Oklahoma with him in the lineup.
Oklahoma will have to account for him on every play, whether he lines up wide, in the slot, in the backfield, or as a quarterback. If Oklahoma doubles him as a receiver, it leaves someone open. Tim Tebow is deadly with open receivers. If they load the box to stop him in the backfield, it opens up play action. Hello, Aaron Hernandez.
If they decide to play him one on one, kiss the crystal ball goodbye. It won't even be close.
The Final Act?
Will Jan. 8 be the final time Percy Harvin puts on the No. 1 Florida jersey? Hard to say. If it is, this will be a chance to shine when the lights are brightest, on the biggest stage of the college football season. One last chance in a Gator uniform, with not playing in the SEC Championship game, could very well spell doom for the Sooners.