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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Former Brisbane Lion Scott Harding ready to 'make a statement' in US College football debut for University of Hawaii

HAWAIIAN eyes - thousands of them - will be fixed on former Brisbane Lion Scott Harding when he plays his first game of US college football in September.
Harding played 48 games for the Lions between 2006-09, before adding two more to his tally at Port Adelaide last year.
Now he is about to take on the biggest challenge of his life, lining up for the University of Hawaii at slot receiver.
It could be a huge shock to the system.
Playing out of the slot, catching short passes in heavy traffic around the line of scrimmage, is one of the most dangerous positions in a generally violent game.
That makes Hawaii's decision to offer a scholarship to someone who has never played American football an even bigger gamble.
There will be 50,000 fans packed into Aloha Stadium to cheer on their beloved Rainbow Warriors in the season opener. Is Harding feeling the pressure? Not in the slightest.
"I'm going over to make a statement and get people to watch me," Harding said.
"The more eyes that watch me, the better chance I've got to make the pros."
The idea of playing American football first struck Harding when he began to watch NFL games on TV while playing with the Lions.
Blessed with speed and safe hands, Harding questioned what was stopping him from joining his heroes, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, in the biggest show on Earth.
"I used to watch it all the time and constantly be thinking, 'I can do that'," Harding said. "I'd watch it on TV and think, 'I don't see how he runs any faster than me, or catches any better'.
"I've always had good hands. That was one of my strengths in the midfield. I was always pretty clean and a one-touch player.
"I'm not saying I'm going to be a Terrell Owens but I'm certainly not going to rest on my heels and wait to see what happens."
Harding first approached former Green Bay Packers punter Nathan Chapman, who has been running Australian-based NFL finishing school Prokick for the past four years, when he visited Brisbane looking to find kickers.
Chapman had only ever sent punters to the US but was intrigued by the possibility of helping Harding make the jump.
"My first message to him was if you want to try and play positions in college or the NFL it will come down to numbers," Chapman said.
"You have to be that much faster, that much stronger or kick it that much higher and longer for them to even consider you. Why would they bother teaching someone the game if they can get someone of equal ability over there?"
Harding considered making the code swap when he was delisted by Brisbane at the end of the 2009 season.
Considered one of the unluckiest players to be cut that year, he decided to throw his name back in the draft and he was picked up by the Power.
"My manager at the time still thought I had some more AFL left in me," Harding said. "I thought I did, too. I was a bit stiff to get let go by Brisbane at that point and I thought I'd get picked up somewhere else."
He only added two more games to his AFL tally, finishing the season battling away in the SANFL reserves at West Adelaide, and was delisted again.
"I was pretty disappointed to hear the news but I took it on the chin and when one door closes another one opens," he said.
"I was excited about what was going to happen next and it all happened pretty quickly after that."
After a break at home in Brisbane, Harding launched head-first into pursuing an American football career.
He moved to Melbourne to team with conditioning specialist Dave Tuinauvai.
Harding will have history on his side in his bid to make the big time.
Hawaii is the college where former rugby union and league player Colin Scotts learned his trade before becoming the only Australian to play an outfield position in the NFL.

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