Huskie Spotlight: Q&A with NIU Athletes – Football Running back Tre Harbison


Redshirt junior running back Tre Harbison takes a breather during practice Wednesday at Huskie Stadium. Harbison rushed for a career-high 1,034 yards last season and is the first 1,000 yard rusher to return the following year since 2015.

By James Krause

DeKALBRedshirt junior running back Tre Harbison is coming off the best season of his career. The North Carolina native finished last season with 1,034 rushing yards and five touchdowns, including a career best 169 yards rushing in a game against Akron. The Northern Star interviewed Harbison on his family’s football roots, what he’s learned from new head coach Thomas Hammock and shadow boxing in the NIU locker room.


Q: Your uncle, Charles, was a player in college and has been a coach for several decades now. How did he help shape your future into becoming a football player?

A: He just helped me be me. He let me be my own person. He didn’t try and make me be like him or anything like that. If I ever had a question he’d be the first to answer, but he never tried to make me somebody I wasn’t. He let me be free and be who I am, but he was always there for me.

Q: Your uncle has coached at some big time programs like Clemson and Alabama, do you have a favorite memory of seeing some of these places he got to coach?

A: It was just cool to go see where he worked at. As a kid, I always wanted to play football, so going to places he worked was fun for me because I felt like I got a better insight. He’s been to Alabama twice, Clemson twice, Mississippi State. I got to visit all of those places before I got to high school, so it just made me know that playing college football was what I wanted to do.

Q: Your brother Devin is starting his freshman year as a football player at Gardner-Webb. What would you credit for both of you reaching this goal you both had of playing college football?

A: Just working hard since we were young. He’s more of a late bloomer, he didn’t start playing until he was in 10th grade. He had been playing soccer his whole life or baseball. He always told me that watching me play football made him want to try it, so I felt honored in that sense that my little brother looks up to me. Every chance I get, I talk to him and ask him how he’s doing and help him out any way I can.

Q: When you’re out in DeKalb for a long time, what’s something from North Carolina you start to miss?

A: Honestly, it’s the food. There’s nothing like the food back in the South. Most people don’t know what I mean when I say I miss a livermush omelette or going to Shelby Cafe in the morning. Everytime I go down there, that’s the first thing I do. 

Q: Since Coach Hammock got to NIU, what’s the most valuable thing he’s taught you about the running back position?

A: Just his wisdom, knowing he’s done it before and he’s coached great players. He has a great outlook and knows what people at the next level are looking for. Whenever you have a question, he’s always easy to ask.

Q: Who’s a player that when you were starting out you started modeling your game after?

A: I really like Ezekiel Elliot’s game for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a one-cut guy, never falls backwards. I like to model my game after him. Even back when he was at Ohio State, I liked how he played.

Q: What’s your favorite game you’ve gotten to play in since coming to NIU?

A: Probably the Akron game last year. I had my career high in rushing and it was the first game after my uncle had passed. I feel that game is pretty near and dear to my heart. That game and the MAC Championship, being down 19 points at halftime and everyone rallying. We had all been through bad times that year. I lost my uncle and other people had some tragic losses in their lives as well. For all of us to come together like a family was pretty nice to see.

Q: What made you decide on a communications major?

A: I want to be able to be effective at public speaking. I want to be an effective college coach after I’m done playing, so me being an effective communicator is pretty important to me. I want to be able to connect with everyone, so that choice was pretty pivotal.

Q: What’s a song or artist you listen to before a game to get yourself hyped up to play?

A: I like a lot of new rappers. I’d say Key Glock is a good one for me. I follow a lot of new rappers, I don’t follow mainstream stuff that much. I like mainstream, but I’m more of an underground guy. I like new rappers and people trying to make it because that’s when they make their best music, at least to me.

Q: You’ve become the unofficial referee for NIU football shadow boxing through some videos that you and the team have put up on Twitter. Who would you crown the champion of NIU shadow boxing?

A: Number one, it’s a bias answer, I’m going to say myself. If I have to choose someone else, the person I have difficulty beating the most is Dennis Robinson.