Harper and his parents were convinced years earlier he was good enough to play in college. His parents and coaches helped him put together a highlight video that was mailed to "almost every school in the country," he said. He'd hear from other coaches who hadn't seen him and Harper would direct them to the video on YouTube.
"A lot of coaches liked what they saw," Harper said. "They liked me, not so much at running back, but on the defensive side of the ball because of my body structure."
Harper is 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds and was about the same size late in high school. Coaches could easily project how his highlights as a freelancing free safety would transition to the college game. The players wouldn't be so much bigger than Harper and his running back highlights proved he was agile enough to hang with elite athletes.
Harper wanted to play at WVU for as long as he can remember and committed as a junior. The interactions with N.C. State and Maryland stopped, though Maryland and Arizona would reach out after three of WVU's defensive assistants left for Arizona.
Harper redshirted last season and worked behind Cook. He dressed for the Baylor game at home and the Texas win on the road. When Cook was hurt and WVU moved a cornerback to his spot, Harper knew there were conversations about his role.
"I'm wondering if my redshirt year is going to get burned," he said. "It was getting late in the season, so I didn't want to burn it, but if they had asked me, obviously I would have."
He's now at Cook's side as often as possible and Cook is worth emulating because of a highlight video. Produced by his girlfriend, the video adjusted his attitude with 5 minutes, 38 seconds of the best of Cook through the years, sometimes when he was at his worst.
"When I watched it, I was like, 'Dang, I did all that?'" Cook said. "When I was watching the plays from last year, I was like, 'I was hurt right there and I was still able to do some stuff.'"
It was a powerful elixir for Cook, who had been working on the physical pain for some time, but couldn't shake some of the mental anguish about what had happened during his junior season.
The highlights reminded him of a better time and inspired him to make new memories.
"In the summer, I gave max effort and felt like I turned my life around," he said. "I was doing everything I'm supposed to do, being a good person in the classroom, showing everybody by example. I felt like I did do stuff here and I wanted it to be known. I felt like nobody knew I did anything but the Orange Bowl. That's why you have all those plays in there - to show I made a lot of game-changing plays and not just the one in the Orange Bowl.
"But that's understandable. It was 99 yards."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.