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30 years after his dad wreaked havoc against BYU, Micah Harper aims to make plays for the Cougars’ program

Micah Harper’s father, Kenny Harper, carries the unique distinction of contributing heavily to one of Cougar legend Ty Detmer’s worst days.

SHARE 30 years after his dad wreaked havoc against BYU, Micah Harper aims to make plays for the Cougars’ program
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Micah Harper, left, a cornerback out of Chandler, Ariz., signed a Letter of Intent with the BYU football program in December.

Photo provided by Micah Harper

His father was a proven playmaker against the Cougars. Now, almost 30 years later, Micah Harper will soon begin the process of making plays for the BYU football program.

Harper signed his National Letter of Intent with BYU in December 2019 after entertaining offers from Air Force, Army, San Diego State and Syracuse, among others. He’ll enter the program as a cornerback prospect, hoping some day of making the type of plays his father, Kenny Harper did, back in December 1990.

That occasion was BYU’s final game of the regular season against Hawaii, right after Ty Detmer had been named the Heisman Trophy winner. Unfazed by the hype, Kenny Harper played a big role in the Rainbow Warriors’ 59-28 win over the Cougars, picking off Detmer not once, but three times.

“It was a huge game for my dad and his teammates. I think they were the first recruiting class to beat BYU in Hawaii history,” Micah Harper said. “It was a big deal, for sure, and my dad was able to have a big game that day.”

Harper grew up on the island of Oahu and starting playing football in elementary school. Soon he fell in the love with his father’s sport of choice. He attended St. Louis High, the same school that produced Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa.

“Tua was a sophomore the last year my family lived in Hawaii, and I remember him getting a lot of college attention even back then,” Micah said. “Getting to college to play football was something I wanted real bad and seeing Tua get all that attention for sure helped drive me, I think.”

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Micah Harper, a cornerback out of Chandler, Ariz., signed a Letter of Intent with the BYU football program in December.

Photo provided by Micah Harper

Micah and his family moved to Arizona just prior to his freshman year and before long interest from college football recruiters came his way. Syracuse was the first to offer the 5-foot-11, 170-pound prospect, with San Diego State, Air Force and Army following suit.

BYU’s interest came relatively late, although a lot of ground was gained in the weeks leading up to the first signing period.

“BYU was actually one of my last offers, but the trip there totally changed my view,” Micah said. “It was the last official trip I took and it didn’t take long after the visit to realize BYU was my best option.”

Playing big in Micah’s evaluation was BYU’s status as an independent, a factor some believe works against the program.

“My dream is to play in the NFL, and with the schedule BYU plays — it’s a very high-level every year, and I love that,” Micah said. “I also love the support the program gets and the opportunity to play in front of so many fans.”

Micah also relishes the opportunity to be surrounded by what he believes will be great influences.

“The BYU alumni are great people, and I really love the players I met on my trip and felt a real connection almost immediately,” Micah said. “I love both the coaches who were my primary recruiters — coach (Jernaro) Gilford and coach (Preston) Hadley and obviously coach (Kalani) Sitake. I trust them fully and know they all have my best interest in mind.”

Micah isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but appreciates the standards inherent with BYU’s honor code.

“It’s how I choose to live, so it’s not as big of deal, at all,” he said. “And I know fitting in at BYU as a nonmember won’t be a problem. I made sure to get to know a lot of nonmember players and they were all cool with all of it. They say BYU doesn’t try and force anything on you and you can be what you are with no problem.”

Harper will compete at cornerback upon arriving at BYU, where coaches see his skillset comparable to one of the best defensive backs to ever pass through the program.

“They see me as a guy who they can play like they did with Dayan (Ghanwoloku) and I love that,” Micah said. “He was a tremendous player who now has a great shot at playing in the NFL, which is my ultimate goal.”

Harper will arrive at BYU in late June and aims to make an immediate impact.

“I want to play and my goal is to start,” he said. “Hopefully I can prove I deserve it and my goal is to work as hard as I can to get there and to help the team as best I can.”