EXTON, Pa. — Jay Harris
wants to live "the life" and has a dream, a vision in his head of performing in front of tens of thousands, being recognized by millions and taking in millions of dollars for something he loves to do.
For the 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior wide receiver out of Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.)
, the dream was once to play in the NFL. That dream has now been supplanted by a rap career.
It's a highly unusual move, and came as a shock to many in and around the Downingtown East program. Some were disappointed that Harris bypassed a Big Ten football scholarship, while others supported his choice, saying it was his choice to make.
Harris, whose explosive speed stretched defenses and was considered among the best high school receivers in Pennsylvania, caught 54 passes for 792 yards and 13 touchdowns last year for the Cougars, who finished 10-1 before losing in an upset in the opening round of the District 1 Class AAAA (large school) playoffs to Wissahickon.
"It's been something on my mind that I've been thinking about doing for a few years now, it really is a dream the way this has exploded like this," said Harris, who goes by the rap moniker Jay DatBull. "I've made the right choice. The [commitment to Michigan State] was halfhearted. I have an opportunity before me now and I'm going to try to take advantage of every opportunity I get."
Apparently, he's gained the attention of some major players already in the rap industry. Producer M. Stacks has agreed to produce his first album, set for June 1. Harris' YouTube video, "DatBull 4 Life," has exploded from originally receiving around 50,000 hits to more than 700,000 since the story of Harris has gone national.
"It's been pretty unbelievable," Harris said. "I have someone like M. Slack in my corner and for him to like my music and reach out to me makes me feel really appreciated. I used to have dreams about playing in the NFL. Now I have dreams of wanting to do this. I think I can be successful at it."
No one at Downingtown East is permitted to speak about the decision Harris has made. But to those close to the Cougars' program, it comes as a shock. They say Harris was a true warrior on the field, a big competitor who despised losing.
"I hope the best for Jay," said someone closely affiliated with the program. "But it did come as a shock to the guys on the team, I know, and to the coaching staff. Everyone worked so hard last season to help Jay out, and work on his game. We all wanted him to succeed. And he did.
"I know he used to speak to the guys about playing college football and one day playing in the NFL. So hearing this news, it caught us all off guard, the guys on the team, the administration at the school, the coaching staff. It really shocked everyone. No one affiliated with the team even knew Jay rapped. The guys were saying they never even heard him singing in the locker room."
A number of others close to the program did say they were impressed by the way Harris carried himself — especially during the team's postseason banquet. While all the seniors carried notes in addressing the audience for a speech, Harris delivered his extemporaneously and blew away the crowd.
"It's the kind of kid Jay could be, he can really capture an audience," another source close to the football program said. "Jay can talk spur of the moment and really have you. I haven't seen his video, but if it goes big, it wouldn't surprise me."
What has been swept under the rug, according to many close to the football program and Downingtown East High School, is that after the football season, Harris missed a number of classes and could be in academic trouble to graduate on time.
Between his tenuous academics and with the possibility of a burgeoning rap career, a decision had to be made. Some reports stated that Michigan State pulled its scholarship. But according to Michigan State's John Lewandowski, the school's associate athletic director/communications, it "was a mutual decision."
"There are certain expectations that we expect to be held if you're a Michigan State football player," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of Harris publicly on Thursday at a business luncheon. "You gotta have a commitment, you gotta communicate and there's gotta be trust. When there's a breakdown in those areas, you have to part ways."
"I couldn't be happier," Harris said. "[Rapping] is something I used to sneak around my parents and now they know. Now it seems everyone knows. I know I made the right decision. I'm going to miss playing football. But this is a chance to do something I always dreamed about. I know a lot of people could question that."
How can you question living a dream?