Had things gone according to plan, BYU’s Micah Harper would be getting acquainted with the team that selected him in last week’s NFL draft right about now, and preparing for a life in professional football, college degree in hand.

“My dad has a saying that it takes a village to raise a kid. I definitely did not do this all by myself. Tons of people at BYU, and my parents, helped me do this.”

—  BYU defensive back Micah Harper on earning his degree

Harper does have his bachelor’s degree in business management from BYU’s prestigious Marriott School of Business safely secured, having graduated last week with 18 other members of the Cougars’ 2023 football team. But instead of moving on from Provo, the safety is getting ready for one more football season at BYU.

A couple of season-ending ACL injuries — to his right knee during spring camp in 2021 and to his left knee last fall during preseason training camp — altered his timeline to the pros considerably, but couldn’t stop the Chandler, Arizona, product from getting his degree in just four years.

“It was definitely no joke, definitely not easy,” he said of earning his degree that quickly. “My dad has a saying that it takes a village to raise a kid. I definitely did not do this all by myself. Tons of people at BYU, and my parents, helped me do this.”

Harper, 22, is in San Diego this week working on an internship that will help him when his playing days are over. But he’s definitely not finished studying at BYU, either.

He’s been accepted into the BYU Marriott MBA program and will start working on his master’s degree in entrepreneurship this fall, while also helping the Cougars on the gridiron in hopes of duplicating performances in the 2020 and 2022 seasons that made him one of the best defensive players on the team and a potential NFL draft pick before he suffered the second devastating knee injury last fall.

‘Buy stock in this guy’

During his graduation party last Thursday night, Harper received an email notifying him that he had been accepted into the MBA program, and posted part of the letter on X, along with some graduation photos.

BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill quickly chimed in, reposting Harper’s post and exclaiming in capital letters: “BUY STOCK IN THIS GUY!”

Wrote Hill: “I cannot wait to see your future. A great football player, super smart, and a phenomenal person. 2024 season going to be special for Micah and @BYUfootball.”

Said Harper on Monday from San Diego: “That was dang cool. Coach Hill is awesome.”

Harper said his best friend on the team, receiver Kody Epps, was his “partner in crime” all along the way and also graduated and has been accepted into the MBA program at BYU. Read more about Harper’s relationship with Epps below.

Harper’s health not a concern

When he entered training camp last fall, Harper had signed up for 15-plus credit hours of classes in order to graduate in December. Then he would hire an agent and begin training for the 2024 draft, unencumbered by school work. But after the knee injury when it became apparent that no NFL team was going to take a guy coming off an ACL tear who hadn’t played since 2022, Harper split his classes up, taking half during fall semester and the other half he needed to graduate in winter semester.

“Now I will do one year of the MBA program, and get that paid for while I play, and then hopefully if I have a good season, I will leave for the NFL,” he said. “If not, then I will come back for a sixth year, and that sixth year will be paid for as well as I complete my master’s.”

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The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder did not participate in BYU’s 15 spring practices last month, but says he is 95% recovered from the knee injury and could have if it was required by coaches. He said he will be 100% when training camp for the 2024 season begins in late July.

“Coaches wanted to focus on the other guys who haven’t gotten a lot of reps in the past,” he said. “Their focus for me was mostly just making sure my strength is all back, my lateral was getting better, and then just making sure that I am conditioned, so that when the summer workouts come I can carry that into the season and play an entire game.”

Harper started in five games at cornerback as a true freshman in 2020, making 25 tackles and breaking up two passes; in 2022, he started in nine of 13 games and made 62 tackles and broke up three passes.

His personal favorite moments to date were a third-down pass breakup over the middle on Notre Dame’s second possession in Las Vegas and a tackle-for-loss against East Carolina late in that game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Becoming a ‘jack of all trades’ off the field

When Harper made his official campus visit to BYU in December 2019, he met two people that would later have a great impact on his time in Provo — the aforementioned Epps, who was also on a visit out of Mater Dei High in Southern California, and a BYU marketing professor named Mike Bond.

“They took us to Sundance, and Mike Bond gave a marketing presentation about the business school, and I really wanted to get into the marketing program, because of that,” Harper said. “Then, a few years later I took a class called Entrepreneurship Marketing, taught by Mike Bond. It was probably my favorite class at BYU.”

Harper tried to get into the marketing program, but was denied. He did get accepted into the business management track, which doesn’t have as specific of an emphasis as marketing, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise “because it made me a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. I learned a lot about a wide variety of business-related subjects.”

Another of his favorite classes was business negotiation, taught by Simon Greathead.

“I loved that class because it is like you are always thinking outside of the box in a negotiation. It is about how to talk to people, impromptu thinking, how to come up with deals, how to negotiate lower prices, and stuff like that,” he said. “That was a pretty amazing class.”

His hardest classes?

“Accounting and Econ,” he said. “Those two classes were pretty tough.”

But he got through them, thanks in part to his friendship with Epps.

Receiver, defensive back team up — in the classroom

Although they had competed against each other in various invitation-only football camps for highly regarded prospects in Southern California and knew each other by reputation, Harper and Epps didn’t really bond until that campus visit in 2019. Then they became virtually inseparable, bonding even more late in their first year when Epps was out with a foot injury and Harper was out with his first ACL tear and both attempted to navigate BYU as student-athletes who are not members of the faith that supports and operates BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Both applied for the business program in their second year, Epps in entrepreneurship and Harper in marketing. Both were denied.

“Our second choices was business management, and we both got into that,” Harper said. “It turned out for the better.”

The teammates who roomed in the dorms together their first year at BYU structured it so they would have every class together in the business management department.

“So for the last two years, Kody and I have been in the same class,” Harper said. “He helped me and I helped him. Everybody knows we are always together, goofing around together, all that.

“We went through the entire process, and we both graduated together, we walked together (at commencement) and we both did it in four years. … Now we are both going to do entrepreneurship in the MBA program.”

They also celebrated getting their diplomas together.

Harper’s mother, Kristina, and Epps’ mother, Brooke Williams, organized a graduation party for their families in Provo.


“We didn’t get a graduation, or a graduation party, when we graduated high school in 2020 because of COVID,” Harper said. “Both of our moms wanted to put something together for us, to celebrate the huge accomplishment of graduating from college, but also because we didn’t get that in high school. It was great.”

An added bonus: Acceptance letters to the BYU MBA program arrived via email while they were celebrating together.

“So it was cheers all around,” Harper said.

This time away from LaVell Edwards Stadium — but just as deserved.

East Carolina Pirates Keaton Mitchell (2) runs the ball while avoiding BYU’s Micah Harper (1) during a NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Provo, Utah. The Pirates won 27-24. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News
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