In Virginia Beach, “The Legend of Percy Harvin” created a tidal wave of celebration with a dangerous undertow of jealousy and antagonism. Fans marveled at the total Harvin package — his Army-tank strength, the quickness of a squirrel in traffic. All combined with that indomitable mind-set.
Coaches held Harvin up to exemplify the rewards of hard work.
Some classmates and teachers tired of the hype. Rivals sensed Harvin’s temper and schemed to agitate him.
Harvin’s junior year provided incredible highs. But during his senior year, he was suspended for two football games after a dispute with an official. He later was banned permanently from competition by the Virginia High School League, singled out for instigating a brawl after an on-court altercation during a basketball game.
As Harvin tried to separate his backers from his detractors, confusion circled.
“People turned away from him,” Anderson said. “A lot of people. People who said they adored him, who cheered for him, turned their backs on him. He was 17 years old. So now who can you trust?
“You have to build thick skin. Those scars and those wounds take a while to heal. And they shape who you become.”
Every incident, big and small, dripped gasoline onto the fire.
The name Charles Clark, for example, still brings chuckles in Virginia Beach. Clark was a nationally recognized track star at Bayside High School in Virginia Beach and destined for greatness at Florida State. So in 2005, his 200-meter defeat of Harvin in a preliminary heat at the district meet was not a major upset. But Clark’s cocky glance backward near the finish line lit Harvin’s wick. He would not be embarrassed.
For the next showdown, Harvin asked if Landstown could wear their black-on-black uniforms.
“Black-on-black meant it was a war,” Anderson said. “Charles’ antics brought out the beast in Percy.”
Predictably, Harvin blazed past Clark in the rematch.
Anderson loved those moments. But he could only roll his eyes at a later meet when Harvin singled out a triple jumper from Granby High School for disrespecting him before competition began.
“I told him, ‘P, don’t start. I’ve been with you the whole time. The kid hasn’t said anything to you. He’s not even looking at you,’ ” Anderson said. “And Percy said, ‘Exactly. He won’t even look at me. He’s disrespecting me.’ ”
That’s how it always will be with Harvin.
Emotionally charged. Invigorated.