Bixby’s Chris Harris Ready for 3rd NFL Season

GTR Sports Writer

“From Rags to Riches” is a term that describes how a person elevates from obscurity to fame.

This analogy could aptly describe the rapidly rising career of Bixby native Chris Harris as he enters his third season in the National Football League.

The young cornerback for the Denver Broncos finds himself on a meteoric rise on the professional football stage.

Harris, a three-sport star (football, basketball and track) at Bixby High School, moved on to the University of Kansas, where he was a four-year starter for the Jayhawks and also served as a team captain.

After receiving All-Conference and All-American honorable mention honors, Harris suddenly found himself on the outside looking in when his name was not called during the 2011 player draft.

In hindsight, that apparent oversight by scouts and player personnel directors perhaps worked to Harris’s advantage.

Obviously disappointed that his name was not called during the draft, Harris refused to give up on his dream of playing professional football. Compounding his despair was the fact that the was at that time involved in a player lockout with the players’ association. As a consequence, free agents such as Harris, were not being signed.

Despite these obstacles, Harris set out to be ready just in case the opportunity of a lifetime came.

During the spring semester his senior year at KU, Harris made arrangements to work out with a trainer in Emporia, Kansas, requiring a two-hour round-trip drive from Lawrence each Saturday.

After that spring semester was completed, Harris returned home to Tulsa for the summer and continued working out relentlessly every day – conditioning, lifting weights, running – anything to get better and to improve his chances of playing at the next level. That is, if he ever received the opportunity.

But then the player lockout was lifted and Harris’s world suddenly became a whirlwind of action.

Harris recalls the details vividly.

“The lockout was settled at 2 o’clock on that (July 2011) afternoon and by 6 p.m., my agent had called me and told me that Denver was interested,” Harris explains.
At 10 o’clock that night, the Bronco’s coaching staff called and invited Harris to their training camp.

Another call came from Denver at 8 o’clock early the next morning with details for Harris’s travel arrangements to Denver.

By 11:30 a.m. that morning, Harris found himself on a plane headed to the Mile High City.

Once there, Harris quickly signed to a free-agent contract with the Broncos.
He was on his way to complete his dream – to play in the .

Exhibiting his outstanding work ethic, Harris quickly captured the eyes of the Bronco coaching staff, who took note of Harris’ give-it-all attitude. Surviving the initial player cuts, Harris suddenly found himself on the Broncos’ opening day roster.

“I tried to work harder than anyone else. I knew I was the last spot, because I got the smallest signing bonus,” Harris told the Denver Post at the time.

Through perseverance and hard work, Harris worked his way up on the Bronco depth chart.

From his efforts on special teams in preseason games, Harris made the 53-man opening day roster.

“I knew my best chance of getting playing time was on the special teams. I made sure the coaches knew that I could play,” Harris explained of his strategy.

From there, Harris received playing time in the Denver defensive secondary at cornerback, continuing to impress the Bronco coaching staff with his positive attitude as well as his coverage skills.

Harris finished his rookie year with 72 tackles and a pass interception, excelling against the run and in slot coverage.

Harris also harvested a handful of honors and awards – being voted to Denver’s All-Rookie team, named the Breakout Player of the Year and the Overachiever of the Year. He capped the season off by being named to the Professional Football Writers of America 2011 All-Rookie team.

The 2012 season brought even more success for the 5 foot 10 inch, 195 pound dynamo.

Finishing the year with 61 tackles and three pass interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

The highlight was Harris’ 98 yard interception return for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in week 15.

This was after Harris had returned another interception for a touchdown earlier against the San Diego Chargers.

To add frosting on the cake, Harris also recorded 2.5 sacks in 2012, which led all cornerbacks in the league.

Harris has already set his sights on the 2013 season – and a warning to Bronco opponents: he has his sights set high.

“I always set goals and I always want to improve each year. I would like to get five to seven interceptions and score three touchdowns this year,” Harris explained.

Harris has another reason to be optimistic for the upcoming season.

One of the top-ranked receivers in the game, Wes Welker (who by the way played his high school football at Oklahoma City Bishop McGuiness High School) left the New England Patriots and signed in the off season with the Broncos.

This translates as great news to Harris in two ways – Welker’s offensive skills will help Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning by providing another receiving threat, but more importantly from Harris’s perspective, he won’t have to face Welker from across the line of scrimmage and defend the former Patriot receiver.

Speaking of optimism, the Broncos have already been established as a preseason favorite to reach the pinnacle of professional football – playing in Super Bowl.
“We have a lot veteran guys on the team. We’re in a ‘win now’ phase,” Harris said
Harris takes pride in being in “game-shape” at all time.

After completing several days of ’s (“Off-season Training Activities”) and mini-camp in Denver in mid-June, the former Bixby Spartan then moved on to Dallas where he worked out at his “boot camp” with several other teammates and other players.

Working out with Darrell Stuckey, one of Harris’s former teammates from the University of Kansas and current safety for the San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and other players, Harris honed his physical conditioning, weight training and speed work by putting in three or four workouts per day.

“I feel a little stronger and faster than last year, so I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I played last year at 195 pounds and I expect to play this year right at 200 pounds, so hopefully I will be stronger,” Harris explained during his Dallas workouts.

Harris’s stature continues to rise in the eyes of football analysts and commentators.
The web site,, recently named the list of the “Top 100 Players” in the National Football League.

Harris was ranked by the web site as the 64th best player in the league.
“It feels good to get recognized in such a way. Those rankings are based upon performance and production during the past season, so it is good to receive that kind of recognition,” Harris said.

Besides the on-field successes, Harris also enjoys helping others through the activities of his charitable foundation, the Chris Harris, Jr. Foundation. In that regard, he conducted a football clinic for children ages 8-14 in Plano, Texas in July.
As for the upcoming season, fans of the Broncos and Harris will enjoy several opportunities to see Harris in action.

The Broncos enjoy the honor of playing in the opening game of the 2013 N.F.L. season as they host the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, September 5 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The game will be nationally televised on .

Local fans will have several chances to watch Harris in person as the Broncos play a couple of games within driving distance.

On Sunday, October 6, the Broncos will travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys in “The House that Jerry (Jones) Built” – Cowboy Stadium. Kickoff time is 3:30 pm.

“The Cowboys were my favorite team as I was growing up so this game will be very interesting. I’m looking forward to it,” Harris said.

Sunday, December 1 has the Broncos going to Kansas City to face the divisional rival Chiefs with kickoff scheduled for 3:05 pm.

“I always love playing at Kansas City as most of my family have been able to come to that game since it’s so close,” Harris explained.

When asked if he had any advice to youngsters who might entertain a dream of someday playing in the , Harris had this to say:
“You need to be 100% committed to what you want to do. If you want to play football, be committed to be a great football player. Just do what you love to do.”

Despite all the accolades, the recognition and the attention, Harris considers himself very fortunate to perform in a line of work that he loves so much.

“I play football because I love to play the game.”

Updated 08-12-2013

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