How fast is Percy Harvin?
“It’s like if a Lamborghini and a Maserati had a baby, that would be a Bugatti. If a Bugatti had a baby with a Ferrari, that would be Percy,” said fellow Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Harvin ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash before the Minnesota Vikings drafted him 22nd overall in 2009. It’s fast, but others have run faster (running back Chris Johnson, now with the Jets, ran a 4.24 in 2008).
However, Harvin with a football is something else.
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Remember Super Bowl XLVIII? Harvin came to a standstill at the 13-yard line to corral the Denver Broncos’ second-half kickoff, quickly accelerated to his right to burst past four closing defenders and bolted for the end zone.
“He’s like a rocket ship that’s going to the satellites in space,” Kearse said. “You know how explosive that is? To get that thing up there? That’s how he is.”
But questions surrounding Harvin have never involved his unique skill set or athleticism. After missing three games his first three seasons, he’s been sidelined 23 games over the past two seasons with injuries.
Harvin has looked healthy in his second season in Seattle after missing almost all of last year following offseason hip surgery. He said that taking so much time off to rehab from injuries the past season and a half has allowed him to feel more comfortable than “maybe before college.”
“I have a lot more motion than I’m used to having,” Harvin said. “I think the biggest thing with me was my hip was controlling a lot: my hamstring, knee problems and just things like that. My legs are feeling how they are supposed to feel — very smooth.”
Harvin said he doesn’t have a secret to his speed, “I’ve been blessed with tremendous ability and I’ve just added my work ethic to that.” But he did have to learn to utilize it.
Harvin said Randy Moss helped with that. The wide receiver approached Harvin after rejoining the Vikings in 2010 about how to better take advantage of speed, telling him the importance of knowing when to turn it on and turn it off to create better separation from defenders.
“A lot of people you see falling out of routes and not knowing how to judge the speed,” Harvin said. “The biggest thing I try to focus on is getting in and out of my routes under control and use my speed, but still stay balanced and on course.”
The Seahawks saw only a few glimpses of Harvin’s explosiveness last season. They’ve seen more since he has practiced fully through the preseason.
They seem to have two goals for Harvin: 1. Keep him healthy. 2. Give him the football.
“He’s very fast, very quick,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “But when he has the football in his hands, people get a little nervous, I feel like. You get that sense.
“He can make a lot of plays … you think about his first four years, and he was an MVP-type player.”
Urban Meyer, Harvin’s coach at the University of Florida, recently told Fox Sports that Harvin “has the best first step in football, and I still believe that.”
He then went a little further.
“I think Percy Harvin is as good an athlete that’s played football. Ever,” Meyer said.
Athletically, Harvin is an elite wide receiver in a running back’s body at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds. (Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is 5-10, 215 pounds, and the aforementioned Johnson is 5-11, 195.)
His athleticism is so dangerous because of what he did in a 1½-year stretch in Minnesota.
In 2011 — the only season Harvin has played all 16 games — he finished with 967 receiving yards and 345 yards rushing. Only five players since 1960 had previously recorded at least 900 receiving yards and 300 rushing yards in a season. Brad Smith of the Buffalo Bills had the next most rushing yards among wide receivers that year with 87.
Harvin’s next season was MVP-caliber — through nine games. He led the NFL in combined receiving, rushing and return yards before suffering an ankle sprain — against the Seahawks — that would force him to miss the rest of the year.
The Seahawks then traded their first- , third- and seventh-round draft picks to Minnesota last offseason, reuniting Harvin with former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Five months later, Harvin underwent hip surgery during training camp, briefly returned in Week 11 against the Vikings and suffered a concussion in the NFC divisional round against the New Orleans Saints. The only full game he played was in the Super Bowl.
And how did he do? His kick return touchdown was the most exciting plaay of the game, even if Harvin barely missed being named Most Valuable Player (to linebacker Malcolm Smith).
“Being able to have him on a consistent basis will be huge for us,” Bevell said. “He’s an explosive playmaker. You want to be able to have the ball in his hands each and every game.
“He can do a lot of things once he gets the ball in his hands. We need to put him in those positions, and to be able to do that he just needs to be out there.”
Being out there would also help Harvin develop more chemistry with Wilson — something the Seahawks could use following the offseason departure of receiver Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions.
“I told coach I felt that I was getting in such a good rhythm,” Harvin said. “I was able to get the signals and things down (so much) that I didn’t want to take days off, then try to get back in the mix.
“Things are coming to me really fast right now.”
Maybe as fast as Harvin with a football.