MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Graham Harrell is set to return to Jones AT&T Stadium as a competitor for the first time since 2008.
This weekend, Texas Tech’s fans won’t be rooting for their quarterbacking legend — but just over a decade ago, he and the high-powered Red Raider offense packed the stands and set records that still stand today. Harrell still holds seven NCAA records and peppers Texas Tech’s own book after dominating the Big 12 in the late 2000s.
On Saturday, though, Harrell will make an impact in Lubbock from a completely new vantage point.
“I don’t even know if I’ve been in the coach’s box, though, it’s not like that’s familiar ground or something,” Harrell said. “So…I’ll know where I am, but that’s about the only difference in that one and the other ones until I get in the box, I guess.”
Harrell produced for the Red Raiders like few players had prior but his legend status grew before he stepped on campus in 2005. As a sophomore, he led Ennis High School in Texas to a state title, then two years later as a senior, he threw for a state-record 67 touchdowns and was named Gatorade Player of the Year. He was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
That success came behind his howitzer of an arm that allowed him to cut through the stiff Texas wind, a unique challenge in the football world. He says it feels like dust is constantly hitting you in the face, but Mike Leach, his head coach at Texas Tech, made sure Harrell didn’t use that as an excuse.
“He never talked about it….If you threw a bad ball, he yelled at you, whether it was windy or not,” Harrell said. “So you better learn to throw it.”
Since the glory days of his playing career, Harrell has taken his football experience all over the country. He has changed jobs (now he’s coaching quarterbacks as an offensive coordinator), states (he’s been to New Jersey, California, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and even Saskatchewan) and now, allegiances, as he is a foe of the Red Raiders for the first time.
Like most alumni returning to their old stomping grounds, Harrell is excited to see the progression of Lubbock since he left in 2008.
“It’ll be fun, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been back there,” he said. “It seems like Lubbock was changing pretty quickly when I was there and I’m sure it’s changed a lot since I’ve been there last. I’ll be interested to see what it looks like.”
Now his expertise is getting put to use at West Virginia. Harrell’s Mountaineer offense averages 39 points per game a stark improvement of nearly two touchdowns from WVU’s mark in 2021. They are also averaging over 462 yards of offense and converting on critical downs at a high rate.
That will be the center of his mind on Saturday, not the ghosts of Graham Harrell’s past.
“We got to focus on doing our job at a high level because I think if we do, we can go move the football,” Harrell said. “That’s kind of the message always, is if we just do our job at a really high level, we can execute. I think you can see that.”