Starting in seventh grade, football season brought on disappointment for Logan Harmsen.
While the other boys in his grade went out for tackle football for the first time, Harmsen was not allowed to play.
His parents, Chris and Nicole Harmsen, had made the decision because of the potential for head and other injuries. It was a similar situation for Chris, who didn’t play growing up because of similar concerns from his parents.
“(Chris’) parents didn’t allow him to play because of brain injuries,” Nicole Harmsen said. “We kind of held the same stance with our boys, but Logan never gave up his desire to play.”
As the years rolled by, Logan wasn’t discouraged by the previous answer of no.
“I have always been stubborn and pushed for it with my parents even though they said no.” Logan said. ”Every single year since middle school I’ve asked. I just kept asking.”
They answer to that yearly question had always been no — until now. Logan, now a 6-foot-4 240-pound senior at Mid-Prairie High School finally heard the yes he had been waiting for.
“We didn’t answer him right away, we took a couple of weeks and prayed on it and what would be best for our family and what would be good for him.” Nicole said. “We felt that he should have this opportunity.”
Playing came with stipulations. He had to agree to focus on school and maintain a high GPA while also getting fitted for a new type of helmet.
“Are we completely at ease with him playing? No, but he’s a big strong kid and is a super hard worker. I think that will aid him,” Nicole said.
Nicole said that with Logan starting near toward adulthood, it was time for him to share in that decision making.
“This year it is his senior year and he’s getting to that age where he can make adult decisions,” she said.
Logan was one of the first 100 high school players to get fitted for a Riddell PrecisionFit helmet.
“They had me put this ski mask thing over my head and did all sorts of measurements,” Harmsen said.
They used a tablet to take a 3D scan of his head, using that model to create a perfectly molded helmet. The model of helmet is the same one the University of Iowa football team were fitted for and all members of the team are using this fall.
The helmet is expensive at north of $1,000, but worth it because of the reported benefits and peace of mind when it comes to head protection. A traditional Riddell helmet costs around $400.
With his helmet in tow and a will to learn, Logan went to the Drake University football camp this summer and attended the Simpson College team camp with the rest of the Mid-Prairie varsity football players. He said those were great opportunities to soak in all the football knowledge he could in a short amount of time.
Mid-Prairie head football coach Pete Cavanagh said Logan has been a great addition to the team, working hard at every opportunity. Cavanagh said that he has the size and strength to be a great player and the game knowledge has gotten better week-by-week.
“He has always been a hard worker in the weight room, and has always been a strong kid so I thought he could be a strong fit,” Cavanagh said.
Strong fit is a good word as Logan hopped into the starting lineup on the defensive line in Mid-Prairie’s Week 1 game against Grinnell. Logan finished the night with three tackles, including a tackle for loss.
Beyond his statistics, Cavanagh said Harmsen has quickly become a vocal leader for the team, something unexpected for a player new to football.
“I’m very glad that I went out and I think it will help me in the long run between learning to be a leader and also being mentally tough,” he said.
Harmsen is now part of the million-plus boys that play high school football every fall.
High school football remains the most popular sport for boys in the United States at more than one million participants. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the sport is down 10% from peak participation in the 2007-2008 season.
The sport of football has worked to find ways to protect players after concerns about concussions and other injuries from repeated hits to the head. That has led to changes in rules on blindside blocks, hits on a defenseless player and other rules designed to limit big hits.
Cavanagh said those rule changes have worked to change the game from the top down, because with the rule changes come coaching changes.
“I think from a rule standpoint especially they have really addressed that stuff and tackling the right way so therefore coaches have as well,” he said.
The number of games that Logan will play in his high school football career will likely only be in the single digits, but it was spurred on by a kid who finally turned his dream of playing football into a reality.