In Knights Under Lights, The Daily Targum looks at players who distinguished themselves during their time on the Banks.
About an hour northwest of Rutgers' campus in New Brunswick is Skylands Stadium in Augusta, New Jersey. The stadium is home to the Sussex County Miners, an independent minor league baseball team that plays in the Frontier League. The current center fielder for the Miners is Jawuan Harris, a former two-sport star on the Banks.
Harris proved to be a star in all positions and in all sports that he played. On the diamond, he played center field for the Scarlet Knights over three seasons. Harris was a strong player from the beginning, leading the conference and finishing fifth in the country with 37 stolen bases and being named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team.
Harris excelled on the basepaths during his time at Rutgers, finishing with at least 20 stolen bases in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He is third in program history with 82 career stolen bases.
Harris was also on the Knights football team for three years. He redshirted his first year and spent the next two years under former head coach Chris Ash, where he played wide receiver during his freshman season in 2016 before moving to defensive back as a sophomore.
As a wide receiver, he was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team and led Rutgers and all-Big Ten freshmen with 39 receptions for 481 yards. After moving to safety, he totaled 41 tackles and was tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2017.
Even as a budding star on the football field, Harris wanted to remain a baseball player throughout his time at Rutgers.
"I was always sticking with baseball," Harris said. "I love football, I love everything about it, but at that time, there weren't too many rules and penalties against hitting people and arm-hooking and stuff like that. They are doing an amazing job looking at that and keeping people protected now. I didn't know if football was going to go that way, so I always knew that baseball would be a little easier."
Following his junior baseball season in 2018, he entered the MLB Draft and was selected in the seventh round by the San Diego Padres. Harris was the highest-selected Knight since Patrick Kivlehan in 2012, a fellow former football and baseball player for Rutgers.
Harris spent three seasons in the Padres' system, including two years with the Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps before being released in 2021. That offseason, he joined the Miners. His primary reason for returning to New Jersey and coming to Sussex County was his familiarity with the area and the Frontier League.
"My high school coach played in this league, so he told me about it," Harris said. "I knew that there was another team, the Long Island Ducks, up here, so I just wanted to come back to an area where I would know somebody or know some people. I know a few guys from baseball that live close in the area that I went to school with in college, so I decided to come here."
Midway through his second season as a Miner, he carried a .216 batting average with 17 runs batted in (RBI) and 20 stolen bases. In the 2022 season, Harris had a .250 batting average with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs. In 2022 he also finished with 34 stolen bases, the fourth-most stolen bases in the Frontier League.
Though it was tough, Harris said he appreciated his time as a two-sport athlete playing in the Big Ten.
"It was amazing, you know," Harris said. "Visiting some schools with a lot of history and tradition and playing there and playing against some of the greatest teams I've seen put together in Big Ten history. It was a pretty cool, fun experience. It was demanding on the body, a lot of time and effort and energy put in, but I enjoyed it."
While making the MLB will always be the goal that Harris and many other baseball players strive for, he knows how important it is to live in the present and continue to get better day by day.
"Of course, that’s a long-time goal, obviously, but it’s one day at a time, one year at a time, you know, just trying to be the best I can be, that’s the main thing," he said.
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