Other than maybe a state championship, nothing elicits greater joy and more emotion in a high school football player than their first Division I scholarship offer. For many, it's the fulfillment of a dream. It's a chance to go to school for free, to get an education, to play major college football.
For Sherrard Harrington , a junior cornerback from H.D. Woodson in D.C., the moment was especially sweet. A college football scholarship from Duke was the best gift he could ever give his mother, who recently underwent an operation to remove a basketball-sized tumor in her stomach.
"I literally cried when I got the offer," said the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Harrington. "It's been so much pressure on my mom and I, with her being sick and all. A few weeks ago I didn't even know if I'd see her again. Then she has a miracle operation. And now this offer, to know I'm going to school for free, it just meant everything to her. I got to see her smile again."
Harrington's world seemed on the verge of collapse after his mother was diagnosed earlier this year. Although the tumor was non-malignant, doctors told him that even with an operation there was a chance his mother wouldn't survive another three months.
"I had a nervous breakdown," Harrington said. "I didn't want to play football anymore. I didn't want to go to school. I just wanted to be with my mom."
But the operation was successful and - slowly - his mother recovered. Then earlier this week Harrington received an e-mail from Duke University's recruiting coordinator, Zac Roper. The letter said that Harrington should call Duke as soon as possible.
"My mentor, [Maryland Terps quarterback] Jordan Steffy had called the Duke coach earlier and I sent them my highlight tape," Harrington said. "And Duke told Jordan they really liked my size and how I made plays on the field. Then when I called they told me they wanted to offer me."
Harrington is well aware that Duke is one of the most outstanding academic programs in the country. But he says his GPA is high and he's ready for the classroom - as well as the football - rigors.
"I really love this offer from an academic standpoint, not just a football standpoint," Harrington said. "My goal is to one day own my own company. I can do something like that with a degree from Duke."
Duke may not be Harrington's last Division I offer. Apparently Steffy is still working the phones. And he doesn't have to go far to reach Maryland coaches Ralph Friedgen and James Franklin.
"I think Maryland might come through with an offer soon," Harrington said. "Jordan is trying to help me out there, too."
Another option would be great. But for Harrington, there's nothing like that first offer. There's nothing like seeing his mother smile.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Harrington said.