Gameday Feature: Harris Appreciates Family Support

Sept. 24, 2010

It’s not too hard to find Chris Harris’ family on game day in Memorial Stadium.

Sporting “Harris Island” T-shirts and shouting encouragement for the Bixby, Okla., native, Harris always knows where his personal cheering section is located. He’s never taken that support for granted.

“They’re always there to show support,” Harris said. “They’ve come to all of the home games. They even went down to Southern Mississippi. That’s how dedicated they are to come and watch me play. I’m definitely happy they show support like that.”

Harris also relies on his family for support aside from game day. When his teammates voted him as one of the five team captains for the 2010 season, Harris turned to his uncle, who was a captain on the University of Tulsa football team, for some advice.

“He gave me a little insight on how I should lead because he was a captain. `Just go out there and practice hard every day and everything should fall right.’ He’s just been giving me some uplift every day.”

Harris, who has started a team-high 32 career games for the University of Kansas, is honored to have the title of team captain and does not take the role lightly.

“I definitely take pride in that,” Harris said. “I take it seriously and try to do the best I can to lead this team. I’ve been coming in a little bit extra, watching film, making sure a lot of people come in there with me, trying to do a little extra to make sure everybody’s prepared to go out there and play a great game.”

Redshirt junior Isiah Barfield, who has started at the other cornerback position in Kansas’ first three games of the 2010 season, says Harris’ leadership style makes him a great team captain.

“He’s been a great leader since I’ve been here,” Barfield said. “We both got here in 2007 and he’s been someone that younger people and older people can talk to at any time. You get both sides of what it is to be a leader when it comes to Chris Harris. When you mess up he’ll get on you, but at the same time he also leads by example. (His being named team captain) is well deserved.”

Cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy agrees that Harris exemplifies many great leadership qualities and that the supportive family atmosphere he comes from has probably had a lot to do with it.

“Chris is one of our top leaders on our football team,” Shealy said. “He’s probably one of the most vocal guys, as far as encouraging guys to concentrate in practice and pay attention to detail. He challenges guys, but he does it in a way that’s positive.”

Shealy continued, “Chris is very relationship-oriented. His teammates are hugely important to him. His relationship with his family is important. Chris ticks by way of his relationships with people whom he cares about. He’s willing to invest a lot in those kinds of relationships and I think that goes back to why he’s so successful as a leader. It’s because people perceive that he cares about the right things. It’s a nice mesh of being relationship-oriented and a great leader.”

Harris, who will graduate this spring with a degree in social psychology, hopes he can continue playing football after this season and give back to his family for their strong support over the years.

“Making it to the NFL is definitely my goal so my parents don’t have to worry about anything,” Harris said. “Coach Shealy has me preparing for games like I’m already in the NFL, critiquing me like I’m already in the NFL, coming out of my breaks in one step instead of two. I really try to critique myself hard on the little stuff.”

Shealy believes that the 5-foot-10, 190-pound cornerback has the tools to make an NFL roster.

“I think he runs well enough,” Shealy said. “He has the quickness. He’s a good man-skill player. I’m sure he’ll have an opportunity to be in a camp. How badly he wants it and how hard he’s willing to work will dictate whether that chance comes. Certainly he’s a good enough athlete to play beyond college if he wants to badly enough.”

Wherever Harris ends up, his family and “Harris Island” will continue to follow and support him every step of the way.

Kyle West is a senior from Ellsworth, Kan., and is earning his degree in business management.