Gophers tackle is challenged but undeterred

  • Article by: PHIL MILLERPHIL.MILLER@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: August 22, 2012 - 7:23 AM

Sophomore defensive tackle Harold Legania has battled through Hurricane Katrina and the loss of his father.

hide

Harold Legania (94)

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, DML - Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The first time Harold Legania left New Orleans, it took 18 hours to drive 70 miles. That exodus, two days ahead of Hurricane Katrina, was excruciating, and ended tragically.

The second time he moved out of his hometown, traffic was better, but hard times still were ahead. Yet the Gophers' defensive tackle remains unshakably optimistic that success -- big success -- is dead ahead.

"I think we're going to go undefeated this year!" Legania said with a smile, and who could blame him for being a little giddy? He's survived two years of homesickness, idled on the sidelines during back-to-back 3-9 seasons, and watched his high school teammate head home to Louisiana. There is no guarantee, but it looks as if Legania is going to get to play football again next month. "And football has gotten me through a lot of things," he said.

The biggest, of course, was Katrina, a storm that temporarily cost him his home, briefly cost him his sport, and permanently cost him his father. Legania's family heeded calls to evacuate New Orleans on Sept. 27, 2005, two days ahead of Katrina's landfall in Louisiana.

"It was a horrible experience. Traffic was so bad, you couldn't move," said Legania, who was 13 at the time. "It took 18 hours to drive to Baton Rouge, about an hour away."

They remained there for several months, until Edna Kerr High reopened midway through the school year, "so I missed half of my eighth-grade year," he said.

But the toll was far worse. Legania's father, Harold Sr., had been diagnosed with cancer, but in the aftermath of Katrina, with some hospitals closed and others inundated with hurricane survivors, his treatment was altered. He lived for only four months after the storm.

"Basically, I lost my dad because of Katrina," he said. "That pretty much killed him."

He didn't live to see Harold become an all-Louisiana defensive tackle, one who racked up 10 sacks during his senior year to become a highly sought recruit. Legania was offered scholarships by upwards of a dozen schools, from Baylor and Mississippi to Virginia and North Carolina. He visited Colorado, but along with teammate Dwayne Mitchell, a linebacker, chose Minnesota.

"Everyone asks me why. The biggest thing in my decision was, I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to get out of New Orleans and be the difference somewhere, playing football," he said. "That's still my goal, to be the man, to make a difference on the field."

He's waited a long time to do it. Gophers coach Tim Brewster decided to redshirt the teenager in 2010. Legania decided to stay in Minnesota when Brewster was fired and Jerry Kill took over -- "He had recruited me in high school, too, and he's a great coach, so it was an easy decision," Legania said -- and was working toward his longshot hopes of challenging Minnesota's senior tackles for a job last fall when he fell awkwardly on his left foot during practice and suffered a high ankle sprain.

"That took forever to heal," said Legania, who sat out a second season. "It was sort of a lost season for me. ... But I was the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines."

Mitchell left Minnesota last spring, choosing to transfer to Nicholls State, about 40 miles from New Orleans. Again, though, Legania stayed in Minnesota. He likes Minnesota's business school, he said, and is one of six defensive linemen with a serious chance at playing time this season.

"He's changed his body physically, no question. He's worked real hard," Kill said of the 6-4, 310-pound sophomore. "There's great competition in there."

"He gives you more size than the others do," added defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. "... I wouldn't be afraid to play him in a game right now. He's just not consistent enough. Every day it's somebody different on the line. It's like the stock market, and you don't know which one to buy right now."

Legania, anyway, is glad he bought into Minnesota's program, difficult as it's been to wait. "I miss it a lot. I always miss it," he said of his New Orleans home. "My first year was pretty hard. But Minnesota is my second home now. I'm glad I'm here."

  • GOPHERS FALL CAMP

    Season opener: 10 p.m. Aug. 30 at Nevada-Las Vegas • TV: CBS Sports Network (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close