That didn’t stop him from volunteering to help save the lives of a pair of missing hikers.
An avid hiker himself, the Chargers defensive end heard the story of the missing pair near his hometown and felt he had to do something. He was familiar with the trails around Trabuco Canyon and thought his expertise could aid in their recovery. Sure enough, by the end of the night one of the lost hikers was found. The other was located earlier today.
“I went back home after workouts yesterday to Orange County,” he said. “I already had heard about the story because it’s a big local story that’s gotten national attention, and my friend who I go hiking with a lot around here asked if I wanted to volunteer and help in the search for those people. Obviously I wanted to help so we went up there and got up there at 4:30 in the afternoon and were there for about four hours searching.”
As dusk approached, it seemed their long arduous efforts would prove fruitless.
“We had a general idea of where they had been and what trail they had gone on based on what the news reports were saying,” Harrell said. “When we got out there we also asked authorities where they needed us to look. They narrowed the search down to a trail that is pretty popular for a lot of people because it’s a trail that goes back to where a waterfall is. It’s about a two and a half mile hike to it, and so we started off on that trail, walked the whole thing and then popped off to another trail that goes up the mountain and is about five miles up the mountain. So we went up there, and by the time we got to the top of that trail it was getting dark and they told us authorities were stopping the search.”
As the search parties began heading in for the night, it was at this point that Harrell and a few others quickly developed a new course of action that in the end changed everything.
“We started back down the mountain as it was getting dark and on our way out, we found only one other group heading back in,” he said. “We were talking to them and tipped them off to where we had been and where we looked, and these people seemed like they had more knowledge of the mountain and trails than most. They were experienced hikers. So we told them where we had already been and looked, and within 30 minutes of us splitting up with that group, they ended up finding the lost person. At the head of the trail where we had started they found their car, and about half a mile to a mile in from that trail we were on is where they found him. He was way off the trail and off the road in a steep ravine. He was in thick brush so it wasn’t possible for anybody to get to him on foot and they had to airlift him out.”
While he certainly played a part in the recovery of the first missing hiker, a humble Harrell is stunned by all the attention he’s received when so many people were intricately involved in finding the missing hikers.
“I’m shocked by all this attention,” he said. “I think people are thinking I’m actually the person who found him. I mean, we helped find him but I didn’t actually find him. But it’s amazing that within that short amount of time that we met with that group and we split up, they found him pretty shortly after that. They’re the real heroes.”
As much as he deflects any praise he receives, it’s undeniable that Harrell’s selfless deed makes him a hero as well.