Miami wide receiver Mike Harley Jr. is ready to embark on several new journeys as the turn of the calendar promises to deliver adventure in abundance. The former Hurricanes pass-catcher enters the 2022 NFL Draft after experiencing an exciting senior season that saw the Fort Lauderdale native record 57 receptions for 543 yards and five touchdowns in a successful showing en route to becoming the program’s all-time receptions leader. Harley, who recently had a son, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his illustrious career as a Hurricane, fatherhood, his experience at this year's Hula Bowl, which NFL teams have shown interest in securing his services throughout the pre-draft process thus far, and so much more. JM: You became Miami’s all-time receptions leader in 2021. It’s an astounding accomplishment for yourself at a program that’s fielded so many legends at the receiver position. What does it mean to you? MHJR: That meant a lot to me. There’s so many feelings and emotions that come with that. I had to persevere through the adversity. I had to be patient, and I had to trust the multi-year process as well. Becoming the record-holder was the icing on the cake of my collegiate career. It properly captures everything I’ve been through. That record was in place for 21 years before I came along. We’ve had so many great receivers, as you said. It’s really special. JM: It truly represents something special. You recently had a very strong showing at this year’s Hula Bowl. What was that experience like? MHJR: It was a great experience. I spoke with so many NFL scouts out there. I think I proved to the scouts in attendance that I’m more than just a slot receiver. I showed that I can play outside as well. I can return kicks and punts, and play on special teams. I’m a versatile player, and I think I showcased that at the Hula Bowl. JM: Tell me more about that versatility. You played both inside and outside at Miami, as you said. MHJR: We went through a lot of changes on the coaching staff this past season at Miami. The new receivers coach believed I was best suited to play in the slot. I ran with it. You’re able to gain a lot of mismatches in the slot. I got to line up across some big safeties that struggled to keep up with my speed. I played against a lot of nickel cornerbacks and linebackers and whatnot that struggled to cover me. Playing on the outside, I’ve seen plenty of guys my size line up outside. DeSean Jackson did it at the highest level for such a long time. Jackson can play both inside and outside. We’ve seen Justin Jefferson do it as well. You just have to get the ball in my hands. I’m a playmaker. JM: Those are some great examples. You mentioned meeting with a bunch of NFL teams at the Hula Bowl. How did those meetings go, and which teams did you meet with? MHJR: I probably met with all 32 teams. If it wasn’t 32, it was at least 29. I had a lot of great discussions with the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos. Those teams spent a lot of time with me. JM: That’s great. What do you enjoy about returning kicks and punts? MHJR: It’s another opportunity to get on the field and make a play for my team. Playing on special teams is something that may get me through the door. A lot of big special teams players enjoy longevity at the next level. It places you in a special position to have a direct impact on the outcome of a game. I just want to contribute. JM: That’s the right attitude to carry with you. Do you have a favorite route to run? MHJR: I love running a corner route when I’m lined up in the slot. When I’m playing outside, I like a deep post or a slant. They allow me to create a lot of separation. If I play out wide, I have a lot of release packages that allow me to run a slant in different ways. I can quickly gain separation with that. With a post, I can beat him at the line and attack the leverage. The corner route is my favorite route, though. It’s an out-breaking route that allows me to track the ball to the best of my ability. That ball just comes to me on a corner route. I can use my speed to get separation. JM: Those are some great descriptions. You talked about playing a versatile role for the Hurricanes. How did playing in Miami’s offense help prepare you for the next level? MHJR: It goes back to that versatility. In my freshmen and sophomore years, I played outside. The coaching change occurred and I played in the slot. I’m very familiar with man coverage and reading coverages. I’ve done a lot of things at the receiver position. My experiences made sure I’m not a one-trick pony. JM: We saw that on tape. You recently became a father. Congratulations. How has that experience changed and impacted your life? MHJR: I appreciate the well wishes. It’s had a major impact on my life. Fatherhood forces you to look at the bigger picture. It’s not all about me right now. I’m doing it for my little man, my son. He’s already taught me so much. Life is never about selfishness. I’ve never been a selfish person. Football is a team sport and I’ve always believed in the power of playing for the man next to you. I have a son now that’s counting on me. I have to put him first. It really opened my eyes. I’m doing it for him. Looking at his face every day fills me with motivation. JM: That’s wonderful. Playing at Miami afforded you the opportunity to compete against some of the best defensive backs in the country. Which matchups stuck out to you? MHJR: I’ve played against Joey Blount like four times. He played safety for Virginia. I played against A.J. Terrell during my freshman year while he was at Clemson. Other than that, I would point out some secondaries as a whole. Pittsburgh had a lot of great players within their secondary. They play well as a unit. North Carolina’s defense had a lot of aggressive players. JM: Those are some great shouts and players. I’ve really appreciated your time today. Why should a team use one of their draft picks on Mike Harley Jr? MHJR: You’ll never regret the day you drafted me. You’re bringing in a player that wants to change a village for the better. I want to make a positive impact on the locker room. If our mentality as a team needs improving, I’m the type of player that will help shape the culture for the better. I’m a dog at the end of the day. Just get the ball in my hands and I’ll make big plays happen for us. When my time comes, I’ll take advantage of the opportunity.
- Sep 29, 2023
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