WASHINGTON -- It all started with a question about hard falls. During his early tenure with the Wizards, Montrezl Harrell has shown a knack for playing through pain. He has hit the deck numerous times, only to eventually pop back up and keep playing. One fall required him to undergo concussion protocol.
After explaining how he is "built a little bit different," and how his toughness comes from growing up in a blue-collar small town in North Carolina, where they played pick-up on dirt courts where fouls weren't called, Harrell detailed his exploits in other sports. It turns out the 6-foot-7 center also played football, baseball and was a discus champion in track and field.
In football, he took hits as a tight end and defensive end, but he was also a kicker and punter. While kickers and punters are usually the smallest players on the field, that was not the case here.
Harrell said he would handle kick-offs and punts, but his team rarely had him line up for field goals.
"Honestly, we didn’t really kick field goals like that, bro. We would only kick off and punt. If we scored, we were going for two. We practiced it, we never really used it," he said.
Harrell said he had an offer to play football at NC State and could have gone to mid-majors to play both basketball and football. Sensing basketball was his most likely path to the pros, he chose to go play for coach Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville.
Harrell also didn't like the schedule in football.
"You practice all week and hype yourself up for that one game, what if you go out and have a s--- game on that Friday or Saturday? You’ve gotta wait a whole ‘nother week, brother, before you can redeem yourself," he said.
In track, Harrell says he was a three-time champion in discus, winning conference and regional tournaments. He went all the way to states twice, where he placed fourth.
In baseball, he was an outfielder, pitcher and catcher. It was his first sport, thanks to his father getting him started at an early age. And he was quite good if you ask him.
"I’ve got awards all throughout my house from when I was in middle school doing s--- at catcher," he said.
Harrell gave up baseball due to a growth spurt, as there aren't too many 6-foot-7 players roaming the baseball diamond. Height can be a major asset in pitching, but Harrell's abilities on the mound ultimately ran their course.
"I was getting tee’d off on," he said.
Harrell's decision to focus on basketball has led to a successful NBA career. So, he made the right choice.
Now he's in Washington, playing for the Wizards, and given how important he has been for them so far this season, they're glad he stuck to hoops.