Former Bandys High standout wide receiver Justin Harper is returning to the area to coach.
Harper will serve as an assistant wide receivers coach under Sam Perryman and also serve on the staff under Lenoir-Rhyne head football coach Mike Houston.
Houston has a close relationship with Harper.
“I’ve known him for several years,” Houston said. “He worked out here in the offseason. I got to know him just from being around town. We had talked about (coaching) in the past before. Whenever it looked like he wouldn’t be picked up this fall, he came, talked to me and said he really wanted to do this. We were able to make it work.”
After spending 2012 season in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Harper was traded this past offseason to the BC Lions for slotback Geroy Simon.
Harper appeared set for another season in the CFL until he was released by the Lions on May 24.
After he playing days are over, Harper said he has been intrigued by the idea of coaching.
“It is definitely something I want to get in to,” he said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity and for a man of coach Houston’s caliber to come to me and tell me he would love for me to be on his staff to get my feet wet. What more can I ask? He doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him, but he told me that he had heard great things about me. It’s up to me to step up to the plate and continue to live up to what he has been saying about me.”
Houston believes having Harper on staff is a “win-win situation.”
“He is wanting to get into this as a profession,” Houston said. “What he doesn’t have is any experience. He is able to come here, get experience, see what a daily routine is like and learn from a very good offensive coaching staff on just how to conduct himself as a professional.
“What we get is a guy that has been there and played,” Houston added. “He is a guy that is respected by our kids. They all know him. He brings great resources as far as that goes to help instruct our young receivers. I think it is a great situation for both us.”
Asked if his playing days were over in professional football, Harper remains optimistic he will get another opportunity.
“You never know,” Harper said. “When it comes to playing football, every player will tell you it all comes down to getting a phone call. Everybody always asks me when I’m going to try out for a team. You can’t do anything until you get a phone call. I’m one of those guys that is waiting on a phone call. In the time being, I’m here to help these kids with everything I’ve got and to help better themselves. I’m going to give Lenoir-Rhyne everything I’ve got and help them to better play the game of football.”