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High school football Player of the Week: Kim a major boost for Riverside Military in Week 2, 27-3 win
Senior linebacker racked up career-high 21 tackles
Harry Kim. - photo by Photo for The Times

It’s never been a surprise to Nick Garrett that Wookdong “Harry” Kim often brings an unmatched intensity to the football field for Riverside Military Academy.

An initial 19 tackles tallied by head coach Garrett in last Friday night’s win wasn’t a big shocker either — until going back to watch the film. He missed two more.

Kim’s career-high 21 stops was the showstopper against visiting Kings Ridge Christian, whose general efforts to establish a ground attack were unsuccessful against an aggressive Eagles defense. Riverside Military held the Lions out of the endzone, while generating a sack, one fumble recovery and a pair of interceptions alongside Kim in Riverside’s dominant 27-3 victory in Week 2.

Fellow senior Khalid Duke had 10 tackles to complement his two-touchdown night, while sophomore Shad Dabney added an 80-yard pick six as the Eagles cruised to their first win of the season.

“We were really hyped up for the game because us seniors, really got the momentum going when we scored that first touchdown,” Kim said. “As soon as that happened, we just got hyped ...A lot of energy spilled onto us after that.”

“The D-line in front of him really did a phenomenal job of latching onto those double teams in front of him, to give him the freedom to move North-to-South, East-to-West,” said Garrett, in his second season as Riverside Military’s head coach. “His ability to find the football is really second-to-none I’ve seen.”

For that, Kim is the Times Football Player of the Week.

The backward shift from defensive line to linebacker entering 2018 has appeared to boost Kim’s stock for college recruiters. The 6-foot-1, 220 pound senior so far has drawn one offer from Shorter University and accrued interest from Navy, Youngstown State and Division II Clarion University. It also presented even more possibilities for this high-motored playmaker. He only has one speed, Garrett says. 

Kim totaled 16-17 sacks over his last two seasons before making the switch.

“Playing linebacker for the first time, it really opened things up for me,” Kim said. “It frees you up, like say as a defensive lineman, can’t really drop down into a passing zone. But at linebacker you can do anything — stop the run, stop the pass, tackle somebody downfield. It’s all kinds of fun.”

Kim was even close to snagging a sack of his own last Friday, slightly tripping the quarterback to get him off balanced before teammate Duke finished the deed.

“Every clip that he has from the highlight film he flies around at 100 miles an hour,” Garrett said of Kim. “Everywhere he goes, he’s just a speeding missile.” 

Garrett traced that intensity back to a story shared by a former Riverside assistant coach, one season before his arrival at the school. John Fabris, now the defensive line coach for Kansas State, told Garrett his first indication of Kim’s talents at one of the indoor facilities on campus. In a game of two-hand touch football, Fabris witnessed this newcomer at full speed, lunging and diving at people while willingly bruising his body on the hardwood.

Kim was asked by Fabris if he would have any interest in playing for the team. Kim only needed to ask one question:

“Would I get to hit people?” he said.

Fabris confirmed, and the rest was history, recalled Garrett.

Now in his fourth season, Kim is one of four team captains and considered by his superiors to be a “leader by example,” with an “unbelievable work ethic" in the classroom and on the gridiron. 

Everything he does is at maximum effort and if you can keep up with Kim, you can keep up with anybody, Garrett said.

“I’m very competitive,” Kim said. “Whatever I do, I just try to be great at it.”

The same can be said in wrestling and track — the two other sports Kim plays. On Riverside’s state champion track and field team, Kim — as a first-time competitor — was eighth in discus for the Class A private. Wrestling in the 220-pound division last year, Kim narrowly missed a trip to the Class A Private championship.

Off the field, Kim posts a 3.87 GPA and recently did an summer engineering internship with SL Tennessee, where Kim’s father works.

Kim has a willingness to try different avenues at the collegiate level. But for now, his main goal is to help Riverside to its first playoff berth since 2009. A strong senior presence has appeared to restore a winning attitude for the program, which could translate to a brighter future for the upstart Eagles. A win in Riverside’s makeup game at Christian Heritage on Thursday night would be the program’s first 2-0 start since 2008.

“The seniors, we’ve been here together for — some of us — three or four years. That’s lot of time at this school, and we’ve never had that kind of time together,” Kim said. We’ve always had people coming and going. ...But we’ve built this chemistry, and I think that’s a great thing.”

“This year, I can sense something has changed. And it’s good.”

Garrett can sense it too.

“(The seniors) really set the standard for practice, which basically exceed our expectations as coaches,” Garrett said. “When you’re able to accomplish that at Riverside or anywhere else, that’s when you start to see a successful program really start to blossom.”

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