In a Sporting News piece on Urban Meyer’s legacy at Florida, writer Matt Hayes dredges up a rather alarming incident involving one-time Gator and current Vikings star Percy Harvin. It seems Meyer had something of a special arrangement for Harvin and his other big-time players, essentially allowing them to do whatever they wanted. This (not shockingly) created something of an undisciplined culture within the Florida program, and according to Hayes, Harvin took full advantage of the chaos to act like a colossal jerk. Hayes recounts:
It was Harvin, more than anyone, who epitomized the climate Meyer created. While former players say Harvin always was treated differently as a member of Meyer’s Circle of Trust, it was the beginning of his sophomore season—after he helped lead the Gators to the 2006 national title—that it became blatant. That’s also when it began to contribute negatively toward team chemistry.
During offseason conditioning before the 2007 season, the team was running stadium steps and at one point, Harvin, according to sources, sat down and refused to run. When confronted by strength and conditioning coaches, Harvin—who failed to return calls and texts to his cell phone to comment on this story—said, “This (expletive) ends now.”
“The next day,” a former player said, “we were playing basketball as conditioning.”
It only got worse as Harvin’s career progressed. At one point during the 2008 season, multiple sources confirmed that Harvin, now a prominent member of the Minnesota Vikings, physically attacked wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, grabbing him by the neck and throwing him to the ground. Harvin had to be pulled off Gonzales by two assistant coaches—but was never disciplined.
When asked about the Harvin incident, Gonzales—now offensive coordinator at Illinois—said, “I think it’s a little overblown. I mean, every great player wants his voice to be heard.”
Said Meyer: “Something did happen and something was handled. I don’t think it’s fair to Percy Harvin or Billy Gonzales to talk about it.”
This all happened in 2008 when Percy Harvin was only 20. He’s 23 now and by all accounts has grown up a lot. However, when we read the above account, we can’t help remembering that Harvin has also gotten into an altercation with a coach during his pro career. In 2010 at the height of the Vikings’ meltdown, Harvin reportedly had to be pulled away from Brad Childress. Not long afterward Childress was gone. That’s two incidents with coaches at two different stops. In neither case was Harvin punished. In both cases the coach ended up leaving.
Does this mean we should worry about Harvin turning into some little raging Terrell Owens-like figure who has no respect for authority and thinks he can get away with anything as long as he produces on the field? Since Leslie Frazier took over as coach, there’s been little evidence to suggest that Harvin is anything but a model teammate. There was a small incident last year where he sold out some other players for not knowing where to line up but that was frustration more than anything. A player occasionally speaking his mind is not a bad thing, especially when he doesn’t name names.
If Harvin has received any criticism as a Viking, it’s mostly been for the perception that he doesn’t enjoy practice and often uses physical ailments as a way of getting out of it. This is probably an unfair criticism. Probably. Then again, Harvin did obviously get into some bad habits at Florida. It would be silly to think those habits just magically went away as soon as he became a pro. It’s more likely that Harvin is still somewhat of a whiny little b-word but in a professional environment this trait is less of an issue. Obviously Urban Meyer let the inmates run the asylum and this probably was the main reason Harvin behaved the way he did.
In short, I wouldn’t worry too much about Percy Harvin. We’ve seen players who acted up way more than him and gave much less of an effort on the field (Bryant McKinnie anyone?). It’s likely Percy has left most of that disruptive stuff in his past. It would be nice if he’d practice more, but nobody’s perfect.