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Navy veteran gives back through sports

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Currituck County High School assistant football coach John Harlow (center) during a game this season. Harlow previously served in the United States Navy.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Monday, November 11, 2019

KILL DEVIL HILLS — The values of the military and sports go hand-in-hand.

For Currituck County High School assistant football coach John Harlow, he has experienced the values from the military and sports.

Harlow served in the United States Navy.

In recent years, Harlow has coached within the Knights football program and serves an an assistant coach on the Currituck varsity boys’ basketball team.

His journey to Currituck County began in his home state of Missouri.

Harlow said what attracted him to the Navy was the opportunity to see the world.

“A couple of buddies, we all went to the recruiter’s office and the next thing you know, we’re flying out,” he said.

That decision led Harlow to serve 21 years in the Navy.

His time in the Navy gave Harlow a different perspective on the world.

“Things were bigger than the small town that I came from,” Harlow said.

He also acknowledged the opportunities that the military provided him and his family.

His involvement in coaching began while he was in the military with basketball.

Harlow played basketball at the college level at Missouri Valley College and Kemper Military School.

His entry into coaching basketball begin with club leagues while living in San Diego.

Harlow said that he really enjoyed coaching and when he moved to Moyock in the early 2000s, he took the opportunity to coach at Moyock Middle School for a few years.

Although Harlow has a background in basketball, he noted that football has always been a passion for him.

“I really wanted to coach football,” he said.

Harlow said that he approached former Currituck County High School head football coach John Wheeler and Wheeler gave Harlow a chance to begin coaching with the Knights.

Harlow noted the biggest difference between football and basketball is one dominate player in basketball can make a difference on a team.

In football, it is more about the group.

“I think that’s probably why I am so attracted to football because in the military, you had to be such a team to accomplish the overall goal,” he said. “Football is the same way.”

In recent years, Harlow has coached his son Zak, who also plays football and basketball at Currituck County High School.

Zak is a senior tight end on the football team this fall.

“It’s been great experience,” John said about coaching his son.

The elder Harlow began coaching his son when Zak was in youth football.

John noted that it’s been great for them to be together on the football field.

“I spent so much time away from him with the military so these last few years, we’ve really cherished spending time together,” coach Harlow said.

John noted that he enjoys seeing players that he has coached improve.

John noted he coached Currituck senior defensive back Alex Dupree when Dupree was in youth football.

“I’ve coached him in both sports on and off the last 10 years,” John said.

Other players he has coached includes Currituck senior wide receiver and defensive back Christian Spencer among others.

“I love every single one of these kids like they are my own,” John said.

Coach Harlow added that he is fair with all of the players he has coached.

On Friday night, coach Harlow and the Currituck football team made history as they defeated rival First Flight 41-0.

The win gave the program a share of the Northeastern Coastal Conference championship and its first NCC championship since the 2013 season.

It was a good night for the Harlow family as Zak caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The Knights will host St. Pauls in the first round of the NCHSAA 2AA state playoffs Friday night.

Coach Harlow noted he will commemorate Veterans Day with football practice this week along with some phone calls to those he built friendships with while in the military.

Veterans Day is important to coach Harlow.

“It means a lot to me because it makes me reminisce about the guys I served with and the time we served together,” he said. “It went by so fast. Twenty-one years sounds like a long time. My first year in, there was no way I thought that I would do 20. For me, it’s about looking back at those times [and] remembering those guys.”

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