By Rory Sharrock
As a student-athlete at Jonesboro High School, Harry Douglas left an impressionable mark on all those he encountered.
So it's only fitting that as a rising NFL player, he's honored with the ultimate tribute as an unforgettable part of the Cardinals' legacy.
Recently, Douglas added another sentence to his personal chapter in the history book of Jonesboro football when his No. 25 jersey was retired during a game at Tara Stadium.
"It's unbelievable to be able to have my jersey retired at Jonesboro High School in football. I already had it retired in basketball, but it's an even bigger honor to have it in both sports, especially football since I'm playing in the NFL," said Douglas.
Now, along with the various team photos and regional championship banners from different sports that decorate the gym is where Douglas' vintage red jersey with the number 25 inked in black will hang inside a fitted frame.
"This is one of the main reasons you get into teaching and coaching is for moments like this," said Jonesboro athletic director and Douglas' former basketball coach Dan Maehlman. "He's home grown here in Jonesboro. He comes from Jonesboro Middle School. He played four years of football and basketball for us. Then he goes on to play at Louisville and gets drafted by the Falcons. It's a perfect story and it's not even close to being over."
Douglas was one of the most prolific players to ever buckle up a chinstrap for the Cardinals. While in uniform, he was the primary target of every opposing defensive coordinator when it came to putting together a game plan.
With his precision route running, deceptive speed and hands that stuck to the ball like Velcro, Douglas was a big play waiting to happen on almost every snap.
His career numbers read like a sports almanac - 80 receptions, 1,539 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In 2003, he was First Team Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald All-Southern Crescent Team, All-Region, All-County along with being named All-State Honorable Mention.
These eye-popping stats earned him a scholarship to the University of Louisville, where everything still continued to go in his favor, even his jersey colors and school mascot.
Lining up against Division I athletes at Louisville seemed to elevate his game as he totaled 173 career receptions, 2,924 yards and 15 touchdowns under former Cardinals, turned Atlanta Falcons now Arkansas head coach Bobby Patrino.
In 2006, he broke the school single-season record with 70 grabs and 1,265 yards. He also ranks No. 1 in receiving at Louisville.
After a stellar collegiate career, the NFL was calling and the number that appeared on his cell phone was from the Atlanta Falcons, making him the team's third-round pick during this past spring's draft.
Douglas was viewed as a steady receiver, who would fit well with fellow rookie classmate Matt Ryan as key components of the franchise's movement into new direction.
"Matt Ryan is a great individual on the football field and a great individual off the football field. One of the classiest guys I know. He's a smart quarterback. He knows where to put ball. He does everything right. I'm thankful to have him with me," he said.
Heading into this week's action versus the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome, the surprising Atlanta Falcons are tied for second place in the NFC South with Tampa Bay at 6-3, one game behind the Carolina Panthers.
When on the field, Douglas has shown glimpses of becoming a featured receiver as he's hauled in 12 catches for 160 yards.
"I think my teammates made it easier for me. Our coaches allow us, especially the rookies, to be loose and understand things better," he said. "Our team is doing a great job and the coaches are doing a great job believing in us."
Douglas earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Louisville. He is a gifted athlete, but more importantly, an intelligent man who strongly believes in family and community service.
"My mom (Stephanie), dad (Harry), my brother Toney, who's at Florida State playing basketball and my sister (Jamila) are the main reason why I'm here today. They led me to many good things. I'm really thankful and I thank God for having them in my life," said Douglas.
Douglas' heart may be with the Atlanta Falcons, but his soul belongs to Jonesboro High School. The Cardinal alum donated chartered buses for the team to travel to Hephzibah for Friday night's playoff game.