Will Harmon and Gilliam, Friends Since Fifth Grade, Live Out Their FBS Dreams as Sooner Teammates?

Parker Thune

If for no other reason than his noted friendship with Caleb Williams, Sooner Nation should be well acquainted with Kelvin Gilliam by now. 

The Highland Springs, Va. native has made no bones about his interest in Oklahoma, and he’s become a top priority in the 2021 class for Alex Grinch. Should the Sooners lure Gilliam to Norman, he’d join a class of three other four-star commits at the defensive end position.

But there’s another elite Highland Springs defender that’s worth getting acquainted with, and fast.

Gilliam’s teammate, defensive back Damond Harmon, has also become a heavy target on the recruiting trail for the Sooners. And unlike Gilliam, who stated last week that he’s in no rush to commit, Harmon is set to make his decision on August 1. The three-star corner will choose between Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Penn State, and South Carolina.

Harmon and Gilliam share interest from many of the came schools, not the least of which is OU. And given their longstanding brotherhood, it’s not something that either player takes for granted.

“Me and Kelvin grew up together,” Harmon said. “I met him when I was in the fifth grade. We’ve pretty much been grinding with each other our whole lives, keeping the same goals. We’ve dreamed about playing with each other at the next level. And now, I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but having the possibility of it is great. ”

“We have a very close, tight personal relationship together,” said Gilliam. “Seeing him grind and work at his craft day in and day out is just great. And looking at his list of schools and my list of schools, they are very similar. So wherever he picks, it might be an option for me.”

On the field, they provide quite the challenge for opposing offenses, but off the field, they challenge each other. In fact, Harmon credits Gilliam as one of his primary sources of accountability.

“He’s helped me a lot, making sure that I keep my grades straight and I’m hitting the books, so that I can be able to get to college,” Harmon said. “We have a great friendship beyond football.”

Now, as he looks to his future at the FBS level, Harmon remains grateful for Gilliam’s mentorship throughout the recruiting process. It was Gilliam who first drew collegiate attention, and Harmon had to bide his time before offers started coming his way as well.

“[Kelvin] blew up before me,” Harmon recalled. “And he kept on telling me, your time’s coming, don’t rush it. And we still talk about how I used to be ready to give up on this football dream. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would have happened. I probably would have stopped. And now that we can go play together, it would be great if that actually happened.”

On the field, Harmon and Gilliam's styles complement each other as flawlessly as those of John Frusciante and Flea. Gilliam is a 6-foot-3, 260-pound terror of a pass rusher, an ever-present threat to penetrate the line with his uncanny strength. Harmon is a 6-foot-1, 178-pound ballhawk, a gung-ho maverick who moves with efficiency and attacks with dexterity.

Gilliam provides the force, Harmon the finesse. And they know that their yin-yang connection, both as football players and as friends, could lend itself to special things at the collegiate level.

“I know his plans in his recruitment, and he knows my plans in my recruitment,” Gilliam said. “Having an opportunity to play together at the next level is a great chance. We’re communicating back and forth, and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for him. With his skill set, I think he can play in any defense.”

Harmon certainly has the versatility to find a niche anywhere, but he’s got his designs on an ideal fit.

“I would like to play in a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, so I can be on the field as much as possible,” he expressed. “I can play any position in the defensive backfield. I can play safety, corner, or nickel. So in a 4-2-5, you can pretty much put me anywhere and I’ll be in a great position to make a play.”

That desire should come as music to the ears of the Oklahoma faithful. Alex Grinch made significant use of the nickel last season, and has shown a propensity to utilize extra defensive backs. Harmon is admittedly a fan of Grinch’s system, and he’s thrilled with the overall direction of the Sooner defense.

“I love the way they’re going up on defense,” Harmon said. “The Speed D, they play really fast. And I like it. It’s kind of like my school, the way they play on defense. And if you look at the numbers from two years ago to this past year, they’ve progressed a whole lot.”

Oklahoma has made a College Football Playoff appearance in four of the last five seasons, but has yet to win a semifinal game. It’s no secret that historically shoddy defense has catalyzed the Sooners’ playoff futility. Nevertheless, Harmon realizes that there aren’t many pieces of a championship puzzle still missing in Norman.

“The offense is always going to be great,” he said. “They’re going to put up the points. But the defense has to get better, has to make stops. And once they do that, they’ll be in the national championship. They just need a few DB’s, a few dogs in the back end.”

Gilliam hasn’t picked a commitment date, and said he doesn’t plan to make any such announcement until after his teammate does so. As Harmon’s decision approaches, Grinch and Oklahoma will wait with bated breath. They’re no doubt aware that wherever Harmon goes, Gilliam may soon follow.

“I’m really starting to get hyped up for it,” Harmon remarked. “It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I just can’t wait.”

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