RED OAK – Long before the 2010 high school football season began, Ishmael Harrison said he was going to play his college career out at UTEP. Last week, he just made it official.

Signing his national letter of intent with family and friends looking on. The process, Harrison said, led to mixed emotions.

“It means everything that you can possibly think of. It’s great for me. I’m very excited and nervous, very, very nervous. I’m ready to get out there and play,” Harrison said.

Mentally, Harrison is ready to run. Physically, he still has a little work to do.

A lingering AC sprain in his shoulder will require surgery in the coming weeks and therapy. The procedure will ultimately end his high school track and field career but should get him back on track for football. With rehab, he hopes to be ready for the 2011 season in El Paso. The Miners hope he is ready too.

A two-star recruit on Rivals.com, Harrison spent the last three seasons on the varsity roster making a huge impact on the offensive side. In each of the three seasons, he finished with 30-plus carries and 20-plus catches with 200-plus yards rushing and 300-plus yards receiving.

His best receiving year came as a sophomore when Harrison caught 21 passes for 413 yards and four scores. His best rushing effort came last year when, despite not playing the entire season, Harrison carried the ball 38 times for 403 yards and seven scores.

For his efforts, Harrison was named a first team all-district player his junior year and a second teamer his senior year. Teammates voted him offensive MVP for in 2010.

It’s that sprinter’s speed that made Harrison an attractive prospect to schools like UTEP, SMU, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Harrison becomes the first player under coach Mike Shields to go D-I and possibly the first to sign with a D-I in school history. Several other players have played at college football’s highest level but most were walk-ons.

“It was hard. It was so entirely hard. I had all kind of people coming up to me (trying to recruit me),” Harrison said. “The (UTEP) coaches (sold me on the program) and then the chance to go and play as soon as I get there and have an impact on the team.”

That impact is why Harrison is choosing to have surgery now rather than wait and see. He feels getting the healing process going sooner than later will make him a more valuable asset to the Miner program.

Returning kicks and punts will probably fall on Harrison’s shoulders early on as the coaches begin working him into the Miners’ offensive system. His hope is that the responsibility will fall on healthy shoulders when this surgery is done.

“They basically said I have a great chance of coming and playing as soon as I come. But the whole shoulder thing is starting to get to me a little bit so I’m probably about to go and have the surgery,” Harrison said.