Locker room: Chris Harris
One year after missing a spot in the NFL draft, the former Bixby Spartan is now one of Denver’s top young players.
Chris Harris (No. 25) goes in for a tackle against the Detroit Lions.
Chris Harris seemed to have the ultimate football resume.
All-State player at Bixby High School. Starting cornerback four years at The University of Kansas. Team captain his senior season. The 2010 Defensive Back of the Year. All-American honorable mention.
But in summer 2011, he suddenly found himself in an unusual situation — without a football team.
Disappointed that his name was not called during the 2011 NFL draft in April, Harris refused to give up on his dream of playing professional football.
Compounding his despair was the NFL lockout. Despite the setbacks, Harris set out to be ready just in case the opportunity of a lifetime came.
After completing his senior year at KU in 2011, he hired an agent, who arranged for him to work out with a trainer in Emporia, Kan., requiring more than an hourlong drive from Lawrence each Saturday.
After school was out, Harris returned to Tulsa and religiously trained at Jenks High School every day — lifting weights, running stairs and working to improve his speed.
Once the lockout was lifted, Harris’ world suddenly became a whirlwind.
The lockout was settled at 2 p.m. on July 25, 2011, and by 6 p.m., Harris’ agent had informed him that the Denver Broncos were interested.
At 10 p.m., the Broncos’ coaching staff called and wanted Harris to attend training camp.
Another call came at 8 a.m. the next day from Denver with Harris’ travel details.
At 11:30 a.m., Harris found himself on a plane headed to the Mile High City.
Harris quickly signed a free-agent contract with the Broncos and set out to complete his dream of playing in the NFL. He survived the initial player cuts and found himself on the Broncos’ opening-day roster.
Playing exclusively on special teams at first, Harris caught the Broncos coaches’ attention with his hustle, tremendous work ethic and determination.
He gradually earned playing time in the Broncos’ secondary at cornerback and soon found himself face to face weekly with some of the best receivers in the NFL.
In November 2011, he recorded his first NFL interception against the Oakland Raiders while leading the team with 11 tackles.
Harris topped off his rookie season garnering several honors, including the Bronco Breakout Player of the Year and the Overachiever of the Year, and he was named to the All-Rookie Team.
TulsaPeople recently caught up with Harris between practice sessions.
Last year you were an undrafted free agent. How has your perspective of football changed over the last year?
I now have a lot of confidence in myself, and with having playoff experience, I feel like I can make an impact on my team. I’m just trying to always improve.
What is the most important thing you have learned about playing in the NFL?
That every player on the field is a great player. There are no weak players. Whichever team makes the fewest mental errors will usually win.
To what do you attribute your success?
I’ve always been a fast learner. I’ve been able to quickly catch on to our defensive schemes and learned multiple positions on defense. I think all that has helped.
Who is the hardest receiver for you to cover?
Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers and Wes Welker of the New England Patriots. They are both very smart and very hard to cover.
What has been your personal highlight so far?
It was probably the Raiders game because it kind of changed the whole season. We started a winning streak with that game. I had 11 tackles, a pass breakup and a pick (interception) in that game. I even got a game ball.
Did you get any other game balls?
I got another one against Kansas City. I always want to play well against the Chiefs since I played close by (at KU) and the Chiefs pretty much ignored me.
Any goals for this season?
I want to start every game. I would like to get at least 100 tackles and three to five interceptions.
What advice would you give to a young player who would like to follow in your footsteps?
I would tell them to just continue to set goals and do whatever you can to always meet those goals. You have to persevere and lead your teammates by example. There are three things I try to represent: the NFL, the Denver Broncos team and my name on that jersey.