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Doing it the Harding way

Despite all his success at Fresno State, former Pitman High star hasn’t forgotten his home

Doing it the Harding way

Anthony Harding, Pitman High graduate, took two days off this week from training with the Fresno State football team to help out during the Westside Ministries Sports Camp.


POSTED July 10, 2009 9:22 p.m.
For some reason, Anthony Harding had a difficult time dodging people. But this time, he wasn’t in his Fresno State football gear. He wasn’t at Bulldog Stadium in front of thousands of people or somewhere in the country trying to reach the end zone.
He was at the Westside Ministries Sports Camp teaching kids at Wakefield Elementary the type of drills he put himself through at Fresno State. He freed up Wednesday and Thursday to volunteer. And suddenly, during one of the scheduled breaks, he was stopped by a small child, no more than 10 years old. Harding bent down and grabbed his knees.
“Guess what?” the kid said.
“What?” Harding said, his eyes making direct contact.
“I caught the football and scored a touchdown,” the kid said, his eyes beaming.
The two slapped hands. Harding didn’t need to be here, but he wanted to. This was the second consecutive year he has helped out at the annual sports camp. He could have been working on his football skills, his future. But he asked coach Pat Hill, someone who’s known as a community man himself, to take two days off from training for the upcoming college football season to go back home and volunteer.
“You definitely can’t forget about Turlock,” he said.

The beginnings

Born and raised in Turlock, Harding started getting noticed when he played for the first football teams at Pitman High after the school opened in 2002. By his sophomore season, he moved up to the varsity squad.
He eventually became one of the biggest stars on the squad that also boasted Colin Kaepernick, now the starting quarterback at the University of Nevada. Harding, a running back, rushed for 1,646 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, helping the team to an 8-4 record that season. One of his biggest athletic moments came against Turlock High in the annual rivalry game, as he scored the game-winning two-point conversion.
Not to mention he was a big part of the Pride capturing back-to-back Central California Conference titles.
“Pitman helped me because it was a new school, so we started out fresh. It was a new program, new coaches, new everything. As long as we had that drive to be successful and to be the best we can be, all you could do was put your faith in the coaches and hope you be successful,” Harding said.
It also helped that he had a very talented older brother in Will Harding, who played at Turlock High and Modesto Junior College before landing at Fresno State. Anthony Harding admired that success and used it as his motivation. Naturally, he became a college prospect.
Colleges wanted his skills, including Arizona, Arizona State and Boise State. But Nevada and Fresno State were the only two schools that made scholarship offers. He could have joined Kaepernick at Nevada, but the Bulldogs were a little more tempting.
“We always knew he was a great player and a great kid,” Pitman coach Brandon Harris said. “We expected him to be real solid in college.”
There’s no doubt about that.

Moving forward

Harding didn’t redshirt his freshman season, which doesn’t happen too often at a Division I school like Fresno State. He played in 12 games, highlighted by having a season-best six carries for 62 yards and a 39-yard touchdown against Idaho.
His role got bigger in 2007, when he earned field time in all 13 games and rushed for 449 yards and five touchdowns.
And then came last season.
In 2008, Harding led the Bulldogs — who finished 7-5 in what critics say was a disappointing season after losing to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl — with 849 yards to go along with six touchdowns. He shared the backfield with Ryan Mathews and Lonyae Miller, as the trio of running backs is heralded as one of the best in the country.
This means the Bulldogs are expected to do big things again this season, though they’re auditioning for a new starting quarterback after Turlock High graduate Tom Brandstater left for the NFL. Harding said he doesn’t care if it’s going to be junior Ryan Colburn or freshman Derek Carr, the top two QBs who are competing for the spot.
Harding just hopes to contribute in his last season, though this will be the first time in three years that he will be playing without older brother Will, who has graduated and is now working toward a master’s degree.
“You know it’s your last year, so you know you have to work hard. No regrets. It’s your last season so you can’t hold anything back,” said Anthony Harding, who will graduate with a kinesiology degree. “You gotta leave everything on the field, every play, every down, every practice. You never know if it’s going to be your last. You see so many injuries at Fresno State practices that you never know what’s going to happen. You’re good one day and you’re out for the rest of the season.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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