Could Chris Harris make the unlikely journey from undrafted free agent to NFL Pro-Bowler
Two years ago Chris Harris wrapped up his Kansas football career after in underwhelming fashion after his career with the Jayhawks started out with a bang. Harris was a freshman when he started on the Jayhawks 12-1 Orange Bowl championship team. He started opposite 1st round draft pick Aqib Talib who now plays for the New England Patriots. Oddly enough, Chris Harris is now showing that he might have been 1st round material despite going undrafted following his senior season.
When Harris picked off Joe Flacco and returned the interception 98 yards for a score it was a 14 point swing in a game circled by the Broncos as their biggest test in the latter stretch of the 2012 season. While Harris' journey has been a long one, that moment seemed to catapult him into the forefront of an unlikely conversation in Denver.
Harris was one of 17 undrafted free agents to sign with the Broncos after his senior season at Kansas under Turner Gill. Harris went undrafted in the 2011 draft and was informed by scouts that the Kansas staff at the time had indicated that he wasn't an NFL caliber player. Harris had gone from true freshman starter opposite and All American, to a player who experienced a staff upheaval in Lawrence and would eventually find himself betrayed by the staff that finished off his career. It's sort of a pathetic indication of what Kansas was missing for two years. We now can clearly see what a player like Chris Harris can be with proper coaching and the right motivation.
Putting that aside we fast forward to the Fall of 2011. Chris Harris had made some noise on special teams for the Broncos during the preseason and that combined with a thin secondary on a bad defense provided enough of an opening that Harris was the LONE undrafted free agent to make the Broncos roster. Good story, but what were the odds that he would ultimately be anything other than a special teams contributor and what were the odds that he would stick with Denver long term? At the time even the most vocal supporter probably wouldn't have put those odds very high.
To start the 2011 season Harris would play that limited role as a special teams contributor but then in week seven, when Tebow time was just getting started in Denver, Chris Harris broke into the lineup as a nickel corner. Over the next three games Harris would contribute 28 tackles and an interception cementing himself as a player that would see more opportunities in the future. Harris would round out the season with 72 tackles and 1 interception, but the game against New England and his assignment against Wes Welker left a bit of a sour taste to the end of a pretty exciting run.
2012 saw Harris back in his role at nickel. The Broncos had made several offseason moves to try to bolster the defensive backfield but Harris was still the starter at nickel from the get go in 2012. A week four matchup against New England once again saw Wes Welker get the better of Harris, but a new door opened in week five with an injury to starting corner Tracy Porter.
In week six Harris would see increased time as a true corner and he would respond with two interceptions of Phillip Rivers including one returned for a touchdown. Almost every step of the way Harris has seized the opportunity in Denver and this was another prime example. The performance put Harris in a position to be a featured corner and rotate minutes at nickel with Tony Carter.
The Broncos haven't lost a game since. Chris Harris now has 51 tackles, 11 pass breakups and after this weekend he now has three interceptions with two being returned for scores. What does all that mean? We've got a Jayhawk, an undrafted Jayhawk, in the pro bowl conversation. Living in Denver my perspective is a little bit unique but I was fascinated by the talk of Chris Harris being on the same level as Champ Bailey in terms of his importance to this Broncos offense. I have often joked that I would buy a jersey when Harris signs his longterm deal with Denver, that moment might not be too far fetched at this point.
Harris is in the conversation. You can VOTE FOR HIM HERE!E! It's a great story, a fairly rapid rise and all the credit goes to a player out working everyone around him because his own college coaching staff didn't even think he could do it. The good news is that the Denver Broncos staff clearly believes in him and Chris Harris is close to making that unlikely journey from undrafted free agent to NFL pro bowler.