Former Penn State men’s basketball center John Harrar heads back to the gridiron

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From the gridiron to the hardwood and back to the gridiron, former Penn State men’s basketball center John Harrar’s athletic career has been anything but ordinary.

Before coming to Happy Valley, Harrar was committed to Army to play tight end but decided to pursue basketball instead and got a tryout from former coach Pat Chambers.

After a five-year basketball career the Wallingford, Pennsylvania, native put his football skills on display on May 6 and 7 after earning an invite to the Philadelphia Eagles rookie camp.

Harrar had some rust during the camp, but he mentioned it was fun to get back on the field.

“Catching a football from an NFL prospect is a little different from having a toss in your backyard,” Harrar said. “Those dudes are slinging it.”

Harrar had an illustrious career for the blue and white that saw him suit up in 146 games over five seasons.

He wasn’t known for flashy plays or outstanding talent, but rather for his leadership, grit and attitude that has helped shape the culture of Penn State basketball.

This past campaign Harrar averaged a double-double recording 10.6 points, and finished second in the conference with 10.3 rebounds.

After the Nittany Lions fell 69-61 against Purdue in the Big Ten quarterfinals, Harrar mentioned he still had more to give.

He continued his basketball career by playing in the 2022 3X3U National Championship while trying to hire an agent and attending the Tampa Bay Pro Combine.

His pursuit of playing basketball at the next level came to a halt when he received a call from Philadelphia Eagle scout Brad Obee.

Obee offered the former hoops star a chance to participate in the Eagles' rookie minicamp.

“He said we would love to have you and the next day I was like let’s do it,” Harrar said.

Obee graduated from Penn State in 2008 and in 2009 he took a job with the Eagles as a scout. He held several scouting roles with the Eagles for six years before taking a job with the Chicago Bears.

It was during his six-year tenure in Chicago that he became a pro scout and developed an eye for talent helping the Bears produce a roster that competed for the NFC North division crown for several straight seasons.

The Wayne, Pennsylvania native took his talents back to the Eagles, where he is now a pro and college scout.
Obee reaching out to Harrar and offering him a spot at the rookie camp was one of many great things to happen to him over the past few months.

“Life goes like that sometimes,” Harrar said. “April was the best month of my life.”

During the tryout Harrar’s favorite team had him run routes, watch film and learn the playbook.

He mentioned that the culture in Philadelphia was great, and everyone helped him reignite his prior football knowledge.

Harrar worked alongside Grant Calcaterra, who the Eagles selected in the sixth round. Calcaterra played three seasons at Oklahoma and transferred to SMU for his final season.

Calcaterra helped Harrar knock some of the rust off his game, but he still had difficulty adjusting back to football.

“I was really slow to pick up the different defenses whether they were playing man or zone,” Harrar said. “In basketball, I could tell you right away, I’ve played so many times.”

He described the experience as fun, and he admits that he still has a lot to work on to improve his football game.

Aside from the techniques he practiced, the Penn State connection continued to blossom, as Harrar ran into a notable former Penn State football player.

“I was actually walking in the hallway, and I saw Miles Sanders and said what’s up,” Harrar said. “It was cool to see him on the team.”

After finishing the minicamp, Harrar remains hopeful to get a callback to continue pursuing playing a sport at the next level.

With a lot yet to give, Harrar sees this opportunity as one similar to the opportunity that shaped his Penn State basketball career.

“I had to try out to get on the Penn State men’s basketball team,” Harrar said. “I’m a tryout guy, made that my identity.”

Austin Groft is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email atg5271@psu.edu