Jayhawk Insider: Kansas teammates reflect on playing with Chris Harris Jr.
During his college career, defensive back Chris Harris Jr. received little-to-no national recognition for his performance.
Now that his game has progressed on to NFL Sundays, Harris has solidified his status as one of the league’s premiere cornerbacks.
Harris has been to three Pro Bowls (2014-2016) and selected as a First-Team All-Pro (2016) as a member of the Denver Broncos. He also won Super Bowl 50 with the team in 2016.
On the cusp of Harris’ induction into the Kansas Ring of Honor on Sept. 1 against Nicholls State, a collection of his KU teammates were asked what they saw in Chris when he was at KU that made them believe he would be a professional football player.
Here is what they had to say.
Aqib Talib (2005-07)
He was just super competitive. From day one, man, he came in freshman year ready to compete with the older receivers, he didn’t back down from it. Confidence is key in sports, period. From the jump, he was confident in himself and he was confident in his ability.
All the defensive backs had a great relationship on a day-to-day basis. We were doing a lot of communicating over there in the locker room and on the practice field. Having played together and winning a Super Bowl together, we always keep in contact. We’ve got a great relationship now.
[Winning a Super Bowl with him] was crazy. We were both a part of history, really. It’s a crazy feeling, it was very exciting.
Darrell Stuckey (2005-07)
We lived together for two-and a half or three years. The way he approached life. He was intentional. For him, it wasn’t about shame or fear of trying. He carried himself in a way where he was more afraid of not trying than failing. He was a person, a man, who was going to do whatever to better himself. If coach said something, he was going to do it. I can almost quote him. ‘I don’t care. At the end of the day, Coach told me to do it. So if it don’t work, he gotta explain it, not me.” … He was still himself, but he was always technique-sound and he always did the little things. He always worked hard. He always pushed himself. He was always undersized. He liked the challenge, he wanted to be the best and he wanted to dominate, no matter who was in front of him, every single day. He’s a competitor.
I knew he was going to be a great player going through our sophomore season, when he was obviously held to a higher standard because of the performance he put out his freshman year. At the time, he didn’t really know what was going on. He was having an inner battle, just perfecting his craft, being the captain of his ship, the master of his soul, and kind of, just, finding himself. It was a time a time where we both built up our individual identities. His sophomore year, he fought through some stuff psychologically where he was finding himself and perfecting how to stay playing at a high level, really pulling the most out of himself daily without expecting rest or a pat on the back, without expecting people to notice how much you work.
[I saw] him emerge into this unbreakable, unwavering strength of a player and a person.
We’ve been training together for close to two years. Our families have always been close. I can always call on him and talk to him about anything. I know when stuff’s on his mind he can call me and talk through some stuff. Our kids get along really well.
I think Chris is a player that his stats may not always show his impact on the game because he’s so consistent. A lot of the things that he does go unseen. He’s about perfecting and not just about beating or dominating. At the end of the day, half the time, they won’t throw the ball to his side because he doesn’t allow his opponent the confidence to throw the ball to that receiver, unless he tries to force it, which doesn’t really end well … It’s because of the humility of his craft–he was honing it, building it, shaping it– he was raw in college. He has intentionally perfected the player he wants to be in the NFL. Man, I’m so excited for him.
Bradley McDougald (2009-12)
His consistency. The way he prepared for the season every year. I remember in training camp going against him day after day was probably my toughest job, going against Chris. Every day, one-on-ones, you knew he was just going to be so disciplined and that nothing I was going to do at the line of scrimmage was going to work against him. Me and Chris actually just trained together this past offseason. We’ve got a pretty good relationship. He’s busy, I’m busy. We communicate as much as possible, but in the offseason we definitely link up, hang out, we’ve been to [Las] Vegas a couple times.
Kerry Meier (2006-09)
Chris, obviously, what he’s done for himself is he’s quote-unquote ‘self-made’ with everything he did from day one when he stepped on campus. You could see that he was confident in what he did and there was always that fine line that he straddled between being confident and being cocky, and Chris was definitely confident. It was very well-known. The thing thing that made him so good–and when I first got there I was a quarterback, and I loved going against him as a quarterback because he’s always bringing his A-game against receivers–the one thing that I thought made him so good was his technique … Being opposing to that, the biggest thing that Chris did so well was his technique, especially on the line of scrimmage and disrupting the wide receiver from the get-go of where the wide receiver wants to go. As a wide receiver and as a quarterback, it’s all based upon what the other person is doing … Chris, watching him, he always had a counter move to the wide receiver’s counter move. There’s a lot of things that make him so good, but first and foremost it’s confidence, his technique, and the thing is that he’s just a blue-collar, hard-working dude that is passionate about the game of football and it shows in the field of play.
He’s a guy that’s extremely passionate about what he’s doing, and he’s taken care of his business. The thing that’s made him so good is he’s kept that chip on his shoulder, even with all the accolades and the prosperity and the contracts he’s signed, he’s stayed true to who he is, and that’s a thing I really respect about him. That’s the same guy that I met when he first came to KU. He’s the same guy that he is today. He’s a guy that stays true to his roots, and he’s a guy that stays true to what he does.
Daymond Patterson (2008-10, 2012)
To be honest, the biggest thing was his work ethic, but also his attention to detail. That’s the same thing he has nowadays. He always gets mad when I’m messing with him. When I first starting training him, I told him he’s the Tim Duncan of football. I told him ‘You don’t do anything fancy but you do everything right and you get overlooked. And when you start looking at the stats and what you do, it’s like, wow, I never knew that.’ It’s not 12 interceptions in a season, it’s not three or four pick-sixes, it might be three interceptions, 15 pass break-ups, and you look at it like, ‘Wow, he didn’t give up like 15 yards in pretty much every game,’ and that’s what I told him. He has a lot of attention to detail and he does everything right every time he goes out there. That’s what’s led to a lot of his success in the NFL even more so than in college … He’s had a way better career in the NFL than he ever did in college. That’s just a lot of hard work and dedication he put into his craft to get him to where he’s at now.
He’s worked himself into a role of being a great NFL player. A lot of people didn’t think he would be there just from looking at his Kansas career. Shout out and salute to him for doing his thing and putting himself in a position to be great.
Rod Harris (2010)
On a day-to-day basis, I got to work with Chris Harris, man. He’s one of those guys, daily, one of those things he specializes in, and what makes him great in the NFL, is he watches film, in and out, every day. That’s what he does, he watches film, anything he has a weakness on. I remember his bench [press], he was always a big squatter, but his bench wasn’t as strong, so he focused on getting his bench stronger … We would do one-on-ones after practice. He would just always put in the extra work, and that was a daily thing. I had a chance to be in Denver with him, I went out to Denver his first year during his rookie season, and it was the same thing. It was the same thing his rookie season from his senior season. Everything he did from his senior year of college, and junior year, it all transferred over when he got to Denver. I remember him being at OTAs and just getting lost in the film. He would go everywhere with his iPad and just watch film, and I think that’s what separates him the most–that he studies the game and he studies his opponents and he makes sure he’s going into gameday properly prepared. I think that’s what makes him a great player.
Brandon McAnderson (2004-07)
Tough. Resilient. I know he was someone that when he came there as a freshman, he wasn’t much to look at physically, but he always had a confidence about him that instilled confidence in his teammates. He’s a pretty awesome guy to be around. He was just hungry. He was somebody that had something to prove. I think that’s why you come to Kansas. Guys that have success at Kansas come there because they have something to prove, and he had something to prove to the world, and now he’s one of the best defensive backs in the world.
Lubbock Smith (2009-12)
For one, just his relatability. He was always looking to be the very best in absolutely everything he did, highly competitive. At the same time, [he was] fun, just a real true friend. I think that’s truly what made him a good teammate. The first time I met him was during my visit and even then he was just intuitive, very engaging, wanted to get to know me, and, more than anything, he was just encouraging me to come to KU and wanted the absolute best. And I think that carried out with him, and that’s always been who he is: excel and do the best and be a champion in everything that he does. On a day-to-day basis, that’s my boy. We stay joking with each other. We pledged the same fraternity together. He started at cornerback and I started at safety. I learned a lot from him and his vet status on the field, and just having the insight that he had. The same way that he looked up to Darrell Stuckey was the same way that I looked up to both him and Darrell Stuckey. Just knowing that he’s always modeled leadership, he always looked up to people who always did it the right way: looking to be the best. That’s something that I really look up to him about just because of our day-to-day interactions. He likes to joke, he’s always playing music, roasting people and just having a good time and just making the most of every opportunity and having great moments.