Miami DE Jahfari Harvey, devoted owner of 4-foot python, ready ‘to strike’ as season nears
Jahfari Harvey, pet “dad” to a foot-long “baby” mangrove monitor named Psycho and a four-foot ball python named Yak, was asked at the Atlantic Coast Conference media days if he could “describe the characteristic of a snake compared to the way you play on the field.’’
“A snake is always ready to strike,’’ the 6-4, 247-pound University of Miami defensive end replied. “That would probably be the biggest similarity.’’
The Miami Hurricanes certainly hope the speedy Harvey will strike continually this season as an integral part of the formerly tackling-challenged defense, now headed by coordinator Kevin Steele and complemented by a substantial cast (Joe Salave’a, defensive line; Rod Wright, defensive ends; and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jason Taylor, defensive analyst).
“They do a great job,’’ Harvey said of Steele, Salave’a, Wright and Taylor. “There are no egos in the room. I like being able to have those people to depend on and teach you. They agree on the same techniques.
“We emphasize tackling and that was a big problem.”
Harvey, a fourth-year redshirt sophomore, turned 21 in May. Last season, Harvey started five of his 12 games and finished with 26 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. His 33-yard interception return for a touchdown against North Carolina was UM’s first pick-six by a Hurricanes defender since 2018, and Harvey finally got the chance to earn the now-discontinued turnover chain.
“During the play my eyes were wide open. I was just running as fast as I could,’’ Harvey said. “It was a great feeling putting that chain around my neck. But we ain’t worried about that right now. We’re just worried about being the best defense we can be.”
Though UM will still run a 4-3 defense, the front seven — especially with talented defensive line transfers such as Mitchell Agude (UCLA), Akheem Mesidor (West Virginia), Antonio Moultrie (UAB), Jacob Lichtenstein (Southern Cal) and Darrell Jackson (Maryland) — is expected to be significantly improved. Just the fresh, rotating bodies alone should be a huge boost.
Steele has implemented a star position, essentially a defensive back/linebacker hybrid.
UM veterans such as ends Chantz Williams and Elijah Roberts and tackles Leonard Taylor, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Jordan Miller will add to the depth. Highly rated freshman ends Nyjalik Kelly and Cyrus Moss could either redshirt as they learn and develop or eventually join the action this season.
“Those are big, explosive bodies that are joining some big, explosive bodies,’’ UM coach Mario Cristobal said of the transfers. “Upon arrival, there just was no depth. None. You gotta be able to knock back to the line of scrimmage.’’
In 2021, despite the Canes ranking 36th nationally in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss, they were 75th of 130 FBS teams in total defense and 118th in turnovers gained, with only 11. But Harvey said the Canes “most definitely” will improve in “especially” takeaways.
“Everybody that came will make an instant impact,’’ said Harvey. “Those boys bought in the first day and came ready to work. I love competition. Without it, people get too comfortable. I thrive being in uncomfortable positions.’’
Harvey graduated from Vero Beach High, where he was a consensus four-star prospect rated by Rivals. com as the No. 11 defensive end and the state’s 23rd-best player regardless of position. He helped lead Vero Beach to the 2018 Class 6A regional semifinal, and chose Miami over offers from Georgia, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Louisville and Syracuse, among many others.
But Harvey was virtually unknown before the Hurricanes offered him a scholarship in January 2018. He flourished his senior year at Vero Beach, finishing the season with 85 tackles, 18 1/2 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
Harvey said his years have flown by and he does, from time to time, think about what he hopes will be an NFL future. But for now he’s engrossed in the Hurricanes — and those reptiles.
“It might be weird but I just like those kinds of animals,’’ he said, adding that it’s “funny” to “feed them and watch them go attack stuff.’’
What will it take for the defense to be successful this year?
“Relentless effort,’’ Harvey said. “Hard work will take care of itself.’’