There’s always something in Jon Hargis’ way.
On Friday nights, the senior nose tackle from Red Mountain has to physically remove opposing linemen from his path in order to reach his target.
Throughout the rest of the week, Hargis has to overcome a learning disability that limits his reading and writing skills to a sixth-grade level.
He takes on both obstacles with equal vigor.
"Jon’s very proud. He’s not afraid to admit things he’s not capable of doing," Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said of his team’s most respected leader. "He attacks them head on. If he has a deficiency or inability to do something, he spends more time on that than on what he does well, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field."
Partially because of that aspect of his character — though it also likely has something to do with his 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame — Hargis is considered one of the East Valley’s top college football prospects. This year’s class is missing a top-notch national recruit like Chaparral’s Ekom Udofia or Desert Vista’s Zach Miller, but there are still a handful of players who should sign with major college programs in February.
Hargis, who has been starting on the varsity defensive line since his sophomore season, even though he didn’t play organized tackle football until he was a freshman, leads that group.
Most college prospects of his size are recruited to play on the offensive line, but because of his speed and footwork Hargis is expected to play on the defensive line at ASU, to which he gave a verbal commitment last month.
Those measures of athleticism weren’t always assets for Hargis.
But since becoming only the third sophomore to start regularly for Jones in 17 years at Red Mountain, Hargis has worked hard to improve the numbers so valued by Internet recruiting services. He has an eight-foot standing long jump, a 26-inch vertical jump and runs the 40-yard dash in about five seconds — all respectable figures for an athlete of his size.
The fact that he’s not just a lumbering brute makes him a particularly tough opponent for high school offenses.
"We always knew where he was at, let’s put it that way," said Hamilton coach John Wrenn, whose top-ranked Huskies defeated Red Mountain in both teams’ season opener. "We couldn’t stop him totally. He’s a great player. He really moved well for his size."
By the time he committed to ASU last month, Hargis had received offers from more than half a dozen universities, including Arizona. He would have received more once he was able to provide schools with game tape from his senior season if he hadn’t committed during the summer.
Not that the recruiting process is over for Hargis. Though verbal commitments are rarely broken, they are non-binding until a recruit signs a national letter of intent the first Wednesday of February.
When Hargis returned home from the Mountain Lions’ season-opening loss to Hamilton on Sept. 1, he had several messages from college coaches waiting for him.
"I know it’s not officially over just because I know colleges are still going to try to steal my attention from ASU," Hargis said. "But I’m kind of glad I won’t have colleges pounding me with information. I need to focus on the season."
Several factors contributed to his decision to play at ASU, not the least of which was his learning disability.
Hargis, who was allowed to have the math portion of his SAT read to him because of his disability, but still earned the necessary score to play college football, said he wanted to stay in state so he can continue to have his family nearby for support. He also said he was impressed with the academic services ASU is able to offer a student like himself.
Though Hargis’ disability was recognized when he was still in kindergarten, he has been forced to work harder to overcome it as he has moved farther along in school and the course work has become more difficult.
Not that he’s going to let that stand in his way.
"School is getting a little bit harder now, so I just have to put a little more effort into it," Hargis said. "I just learn a little slower (than most people), but I’m a person that likes to push through it and try to get it done. It’s just another challenge."