One’s a linebacker at heart, the other is in build, but neither plays the position for the Killeen Kangaroos. But if their team needed them to, seniors Akeem Harrison and Deric Robertson would make a competition of it.
Each earnestly believes he could do what the other does, only better. It’s been that way since Harrison walked into Robertson’s first-grade class.
“It wasn’t his class,” Harrison said.
“I was there first,” Robertson retorted.
Tight end Harrison was the Roos’ second-leading receiver last season and hasn’t played linebacker since he was a freshman, but that’s all the college recruiters want to talk about with the Rivals.com three-star athlete.
Robertson plays safety and committed to Oklahoma State earlier this year to play any position they ask him to. With a little tweaking, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Robertson, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, can play safety, corner or linebacker in college.
Robertson and Harrison play what they play now for their Kangaroos’ teammates.
“That (versatility) is what brings a different element to our team,” Robertson said. “We have a lot of players that can play multiple positions, like I can play a safety and a corner or, like this year, they’re telling me I could play some offense, like a little bit of receiver. ... Either way, our versatility makes us a threat to any team.”
Harrison caught 17 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown last season, but, like Robertson, it’s his versatility and blend of size and speed — 6-2, 225 pounds with a 4.6-second 40 — that makes him such an asset.
Even though he hasn’t played linebacker in four years, Harrison is making his offensive line experience work for him in the future.
“Playing tight end, my first step is always forward — I want to attack the defense, not sit back,” Harrison said. “It helps me by just bringing my head into the game and making contact because playing on the line, you’re going to make some contact. Playing defense, you can’t avoid contact, you want to deliver contact.”
Harrison and senior DeVarri McCray — a hybrid backup quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back — were junior quarterback Garrett Gaskamp’s most-targeted receivers last season.
McCray, who’s 6-2 and 180 pounds and also receiving Division I-level looks, led the team with 24 catches for 341 yards and three touchdowns while also running for nearly 300 yards and six touchdowns on 28 carries. He was a candidate to be Killeen’s starting quarterback prior to last season, but the coaches agreed he could be more effective as a receiver or utility back.
“When I sprained my ankle, we moved a linebacker to safety and then we brought DeVarri over and taught him how to play (safety) just in case it happened again. When you have multiple players that can play those multiple positions, it really helps just in case somebody goes down,” Robertson said.
Robertson, in his first full season as the starting free safety, totaled 74 tackles — 55 solo — and three batted passes as an 8-4A first-team all-district selection last year.
Not known for being a hitter early in his prep career, Robertson has developed a safety’s taste for contact.
“I always tell my teammates I’m a linebacker at heart,” Robertson said. “They start laughing at me when I tell them that, but then when we get in pads and I actually hit somebody, then they’ll be like, ‘OK, he’s for real.’”
He’s not a linebacker, but could be, like Harrison’s not a linebacker, but will be.
They could play and would play those positions if that’s where they were needed.
“It’s more like everybody is everybody’s backup,” Harrison said. “If I go down, somebody else could jump in. If a corner or somebody goes down on defense, DeVarri can jump in, Deric can jump in on offense, I can jump in on defense. We can all play on both sides of the ball, not just strictly one position.
“We’ve got a lot of quick guys, guys that can catch, guys that can block, guys that make good tackles.”