As Orlando Harvey stepped onto the turf at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in the spring of 2010 at Springfield College for the Shrine Chowder Bowl Classic, a high school game for graduating seniors in western and central Massachusetts, he knew that he had one more opportunity to improve his profile.
The current SC junior, at the time a standout defensive end and two-year captain at Chicopee High School, had already received interest from 15 colleges throughout the Division I and II ranks, including such household names as Florida State, The University of Connecticut and Syracuse. The game was going well, just as the season had for the then senior, when his journey as a football player was shattered in a moment.
Harvey remembers most of the play clearly. It was the third quarter, with approximately six minutes on the clock. Harvey got set in his stance just as he had every other play before, and at the snap of the ball, propelled his body forward.
“[I] got off the line, engaged with the outside offensive lineman, and all of a sudden I got a crashing pain in my knee, and it just felt like a pop. But I didn’t know that I just got hit by somebody else,” Harvey said. “The kid came down to give me a crack block, but he came too low and slid down and hit my knee at the same time. And so my knee pretty much folded in half.”
The impact completely tore through his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which required a graft to reconstruct. It was the second injury that Harvey sustained to that same knee during the season. He had showed true grit by playing through a partial medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear in leading his team to the playoffs. The ACL injury, however, damaged not only Harvey’s body, but also his previously indomitable spirit.
“I was devastated. I…at that time I thought my life was over because you look at it as this is something that you worked for from day one,” Harvey said.
Due to the surgery and time spent in the hospital, Harvey went from around 230 lbs. to closer to 180 lbs. His surgery was also complicated further when he contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his repaired knee, which required a second surgery.
The doctors told him that if he ever injured his knee again, they would most likely have to perform another graft, leaving his hamstring with very little support. As Harvey’s chances of playing in front of huge crowds at the next level slipped through his fingers, he fell into a period of depression.
The injury also affected his final outdoor track season, because he could not run or make any pivoting movements during his throwing events. For the two-year track team captain, the end to his high school career left a bitter taste in his mouth.
Harvey was mired in a state of depression for some time before he finally found the inspiration to move on. One day as he was laying around his home in Springfield, Mass. surfing YouTube videos, he stumbled across one titled, “Success…How bad do you want it?”
In the video, a speaker tells a story about a man who wanted to learn how to be successful. The man asks a guru to teach him the secrets, so the guru tells the man to meet him at the beach. Once there, the guru, who is standing in the ocean, tells the man to walk out to him. The man complies, and when he reaches the guru, the guru shoves the man’s head underwater and holds him there as he wildly thrashes about. Finally, he releases him and gives this advice: “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you’ll be successful.”
The message resonated with Harvey, who knew that it was time to move on to the next stage in his life. His football career might have been derailed, but his future was not.
“This injury kind of suffocated me. It held me down. It made me think that life was over. But I knew that if I really wanted it [success], I needed to break out of it. I needed to want to breath more, to expand my lungs, to expand my life,” Harvey said. “In that moment of finishing that video, I snapped out of it. My dad was sitting in the kitchen talking to my sister…and I looked at him. I was like, ‘Dad, I think today’s the day.’”
Hence began Harvey’s second life. Urged on by his high school football coach, Alex Efstratios, who played football under SC coach Michael DeLong, Harvey checked out Springfield College. He ultimately decided to enroll and became a Business Management major with a concentration in Accounting and Finance.
While he was eating in Cheney Dining Hall at the beginning of the fall semester of his freshman year, Harvey was approached by SC graduate Nick Hogan, a co-captain of SC’s track and field team. Hogan had overheard Harvey’s story and past experience of participating in track in high school, and invited him to join the team. Although he did not feel 100 percent confident about his knee, Harvey decided that it was time to give sports another chance. Harvey has a natural athletic build, coupled with a tireless work ethic, which helped him to jump right back into throwing shot put. He qualified for the ECAC Division III Championships in both the indoor and outdoor seasons his freshman year, placing seventh in shot put in outdoor.
“For a freshman to place in a big meet like that was a big thing,” Harvey said. “That was an accomplishment for me to know that some things may set you back, but if you have the mindset to really want something and the goal to get it, you can achieve that.”
Harvey continued his success last season, placing fifth in the ECACs at shot put during outdoor track. This season, Harvey had to put track on hold because he received the opportunity to work at two paid internships during the spring semester. They were opportunities that he could not pass up, so he put off competing in track, although he still trains regularly. Taking a break from track did not thrill Harvey, but the junior and Springfield native has always had his priorities straight. He is a student first, and an athlete second. As if being a student-athlete were not enough, however, Harvey has another, more important role that he plays: the family man.
Harvey has been dating his girlfriend Dalisha Suttles for six years, and the two are raising a 3-year-old son, Orlando Harvey, Jr. Harvey has what might be considered the ultimate balancing act.
A typical day for Harvey begins between 6-6:30 a.m., when he wakes up to go for a morning run. He usually has classes from around 8-10:30 a.m. before training for track from 10:30 to 12. After grabbing lunch, Harvey has afternoon classes, followed by an hour or two of homework, a second training session from 4-6 p.m., and work from 7-12 a.m. Finally, he arrives home around 1 a.m., and works until 3 a.m. on school assignments before going to sleep and waking up to do it all over again.
This hectic schedule might seem overwhelming, but Harvey uses weekends with his family to recharge and rejuvenate him.
“The weekends are strictly family based. Period. There’s no if’s [or] but’s about it,” Harvey said. “Sundays my phone is off, my computer is away, my books are away, and it’s all family time.”
Harvey fully expects to return to the SC track and field team next season, where he will be participating in the decathlon for the first time. He has high expectations for himself, and expects to make a push to qualify for Nationals.
“I am all for Orlando trying the decathlon. He can sprint, long jump, high jump, throw the shot, [and throw] discus,” SC men’s track and field coach Ken Klatka said. “I feel he has to learn to hurdle and pole vault. How far can he go? I feel if he learns those two events, he could go all the way.”
As Harvey continues to move further past from his knee injury and focuses more on maintaining his balancing act, he knows that he has a support system waiting for him each night he comes home. For the family man, he could not ask for more.
“He [his son Orlando Jr.] and his mother are my fuel to keep going,” Harvey said. “Right now, with the way that my life is going, I wouldn’t ask for anything else.”