GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Percy Harvin is planning an NFL comeback nearly four years after his last game.
The former Florida star and first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2009 expects to get invited to a training camp this season and show his 32-year-old body still has what it takes to be an elite playmaker.
“It's destiny,” Harvin told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “There's always been something to stop me coming back. But things started slowly leading back to football and the desire started coming back."
The biggest step came after hip surgery last August in Gainesville. Doctors found a blockage he said may have been there since high school.
“Just had a lot of things that needed to be fixed,” said Harvin, who turns 32 next month.
Harvin helped lead the Gators to their third national championship in 2008. The Vikings chose him with the 22nd overall selection a few months later. After four productive seasons in Minnesota, the Vikings traded him to Seattle for a trio of picks. He was limited to six games over two years with the Seahawks, who shipped him to the New York Jets in the middle of the 2014 season.
Harvin played his final two years (2015-16) in Buffalo, where he caught 21 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown.
His professional career ended shortly after he was playing soccer with his 2-year-old son in his backyard in 2016. Harvin clearly tweaked something, and not long after he lost balance, had no explosive power in his legs and couldn't get in and out of breaks. In short, he no longer looked or felt like himself.
“It was dramatic,” said Harvin, who has 4,026 yards receiving, 927 yards rushing and 32 total touchdowns in 75 NFL games. “Knowing something's wrong with your body, frustration and taking that home sometimes, self-isolation. It was a trickle-down effect. Once I seen that, I said, ‘We’re not going to put this on display no more.
"My headaches were coming back, and that was definitely a trigger that my brain was kind of everywhere. I didn't like that display. I made that decision. I'd rather give all this money back than put this on display.”
So Harvin walked away. He spent the next three years in pain, physical and mental. He went back to school. He got involved in a few business ventures. But he never stopped working out, even though he was a shell of himself at times.
Just last summer, he put his wife and two kids on a private plane for vacation and had to lay on the floor to get comfortable. He was leaning to one side so often when he walked that he developed severe calluses on one foot. And he couldn't get up and down stairs without using the handrail.
Surgery was the turning point. So was his training that followed. He ended up working with former Olympian Tim Montgomery at NUMA Speed in Gainesville, and calls the 2000 gold medalist sprinter the best trainer he's ever dealt with.
He started running four miles a day, got strength and power back in his legs through squats, then found the hip flexibility that eluded him for years.
“That light bulb hit," Harvin said. “I was happy about it and starting thinking about a return. It all just came together.”
He called his doctor and asked him to get all the paperwork ready for NFL teams, saying "They're definitely going to want to see what’s been done the last couple of years.”
Now, Harvin waits for a call while continuing to work out during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The need for guys that can catch the ball and create after the catch is always at a premium in the NFL," said Harvin's agent, Alvin Keels. "I would be shocked if he isn’t invited into someone’s camp. Wouldn’t you?”
“It’s going to be important that he conveys to the league that he’s 100% all in mentally. I think the nagging injuries got to him in Buffalo and he checked out. He was dealing with some stuff mentally that sent him into a depression. I think the time off was actually good for him. I think he needed it and he's ready.”