KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Harris Jr. remembers finishing high school with all-state honors without college scholarship offers flowing in, and he remembers wrapping up a heralded college career at Kansas overlooked for an invite to the NFL combine and bypassed again on draft day.
“That motivated me a lot,” Harris said. “Just not having any offers coming out of high school until finally getting one offer to Kansas, and then just the way I came into the league and nobody thought I could be in the NFL, that just all stays with me.”
Harris said he tries to prove his worth every season, and that effort resulted this week in this third-straight Pro Bowl nomination.
That honor still holds special meaning for the Denver Broncos defensive back, given his long journey to the top of his profession.
“Just from our peers, being able to get that,” Harris said. “It seems like every year it’s harder and harder. Now getting it three years in a row, it’s going to be even harder to get it next year.”
No challenge appears to tough for Harris. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak marvels at the accomplishment of Harris in his six years in the NFL.
“He’s made of something just really special,” Kubiak said. “It means a lot to Chris. He’s a battler, he’s a worker in practice, he studies his tail off.”
Kubiak said Harris serves as an example for taking any opportunity in life that comes one’s way and making every bit out of it as possible.
“We’re real proud of him as a player but even more so as a person,” Kubiak said, “a really good person who’s done a special job, a big leader on our team.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the tenacity of Harris shows on the football field.
“He’s a good football player,” Reid said. “He’ll challenge every snap. I have a lot of respect for him and how he goes about his business.”
Harris still closely follows Jayhawks football, and he counts himself a big fan of head coach David Beaty and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen.
“I think they’re doing a great job,” Harris said. “This year’s a major improvement from last year, and I expect them to continue to get better. I think they will be once they start to get more of their recruits coming in, getting these transfers in and finally getting those scholarships back that we lost.
Harris said he appreciates the Beaty’s energy and connection with his players.
“He makes guys want to play for him,” Harris said. “That’s the first thing I look at, see how the players play for their coach. For him they go all out.”
The 2007 Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl with Harris and Broncos teammate Aqib Talib anchoring the secondary. Talib’s fourth-straight Pro Bowl recognition this week gives the former Kansas teammates seven combined Pro Bowl honors in the last four seasons.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith praised the intelligence of Harris and Talib in their ability to diagnose plays.
“Those guys have played a lot of football, so they’ve seen a lot of routes,” Smith said. “They know how teams try to attack them based on their coverages.”
Smith also said the duo communicates well, which may explain their collaborative success at both college and NFL levels.
Last season, that teamwork helped win a Super Bowl together with the Broncos.
“That definitely means a lot to me, to be able to win a Super Bowl together,” Harris said. “It’s something we always use to joke, ‘man, I wonder if me and Aqib ever get to play together,’ and it actually happened. It felt good to win that Super Bowl together.”