Every now and then, Sean Harlow’s friends catch televised replays of USC games from the late 1980s.
Later on, when those friends see the 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive tackle (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) they mention the similarities between the senior and one of the Trojans’ tackles.
“I swear that was you out there,” they say. “You guys look so much alike.”
The more Harlow watches film of his father, Pat, playing at USC, the more he sees those same similarities.
“In a sense, it kind of seems like I’m watching myself,” Sean said. “I think we play very similar, very aggressive, not stopping until the whistle blows. It’s probably just genetics, I guess.”
Pat played for the Trojans from 1987-90 before spending eight seasons in the NFL. While his son sees a little of himself when watching those older games, Pat gets a similar sensation on Friday nights -- watching an aggressive athlete who finishes blocks downfield.
But when father talks about son, there is one distinct difference: “At this stage in his career, he’s way better than I was, that’s for sure."
Sean, a three-star recruit known for his physical play, committed to Washington in July, joining friends and future teammates Dane Crane and Connor O’Brien, who play at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita.
“I’m excited,” Sean said. “I really feel like they’re on the rise. They’ve had a great recruiting class the last two years. I feel like the one I’m in is doing pretty well right now.”
Sean always planned to play football. He begged to start at an early age. Pat wanted him to wait until he was older, but “my neighborhood friends were always playing football, so I talked him into it,” Sean said.
As long as he has played, he has talked technique with his father, working on the “little nuances of the game.”
But, while Pat helped hone his son’s skills, he said there is something simple that sets Harlow apart from other athletes.
“He just loves the game,” Pat said. “He’s got a passion for the game. He loves being around his teammates. I think that’s what separates a lot of guys is that they truly, truly love the game, and he does.”
As a junior, Sean started at right tackle for the Tritons, while Kyle Murphy -- rated the No. 27 prospect in the 2012 ESPN 150 -- blocked the blind side. With Murphy moving on to play at Stanford, Harlow has moved to left tackle this season.
“I’m still kind of getting used to left tackle,” he said. “I haven’t played against anybody besides my own team yet, so we’ll how that goes when I get someone else against me.”
He missed San Clemente’s first game, a 56-0 victory over Los Angeles (Calif.) West Adams Prep, with a hip flexor injury.
He said he could have played, but didn’t want to risk suffering a setback.
“I was pretty mad that I couldn’t go, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because I didn’t want to risk anything and be out longer,” Sean said. “I’m just trying to get back and help my team as much as I can.”
Harlow has spent so much time preparing for this season, he hasn’t decided which weekend he will use to take his official visit to Washington. But, while that decision will come later, he would like to travel to Seattle to see the Huskies play his father’s alma mater, Oct. 13.
When asked what it is like to know his son is headed to the Northwest for college, Pat said he is happy Harlow has picked his own path.
“I’m fired up for him,” Pat said. “He gets to make his own mark.”
In a few years, father and son will be able to watch their Pac-12 games side-by-side, one generation’s highlights replayed with the next. They will get a chance to see the similarities up close.
Until then, though, Sean will lean on Pat’s lessons.
“It’s such a great game,” Sean said. “You can only play for so long, so just have fun while you can.”