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Friday, July 30, 2010

One last hurrah: Reliable Harris raises bar for senior year

Kansas University defenders Chris Harris and D.J. Beshears (20) celebrate a fumble recovery against Colorado on Oct. 17, 2009, in Boulder, Colo. Harris, a senior cornerback, is hoping to use his experience, 	dependability and passion to create a memorable final year on the football field in 2010.

Kansas University defenders Chris Harris and D.J. Beshears (20) celebrate a fumble recovery against Colorado on Oct. 17, 2009, in Boulder, Colo. Harris, a senior cornerback, is hoping to use his experience, dependability and passion to create a memorable final year on the football field in 2010.

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Kansas University cornerback Chris Harris possesses just about everything a coach could possibly want from a senior leader.

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Kansas university’s Chris Harris, right, closes in on Oklahoma’s Jaz Reynolds on Oct. 24, 2009, in Lawrence. Harris, who has shifted between cornerback and safety, expects to have a big season at corner in 2010.

Big-game experience? Check. As a true freshman, Harris was the starter opposite Aqib Talib in the Jayhawks’ Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech.

Respect from his teammates? Check. Harris, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior from Bixby, Okla., said Wednesday at Big 12 media days outside of Dallas that not a day has gone by when an underclassman or two has not come up and talked to him about assignments, expectations or the position in general.

“All the freshman corners, they come to me and say, ‘Why do you do it this way,’ and ‘What do you do here,’ and I’m happy to help,” Harris said. “They’re the future of Kansas football.”

Fire and passion? Check. Off the field, Harris has a smile and demeanor that brings positive energy to any situation. On the field, he transforms into a warrior possessed by physical football. Somehow, even though he wears a helmet while he stalks the field, his wide grin can still be seen stashed behind his facemask as he roams around the secondary.

During his three years at Kansas — a period of time that has taken him from cornerback to safety to nickel back and even to the bench — Harris has played in 38 games, started in 29 (most on the active roster), recorded 208 tackles and picked off three passes. In addition, he has two sacks, two fumble recoveries and five tackles for loss.

During last year’s 5-7 season, he started all 12 games and, at season’s end, shared the team’s Don Fambrough Award for unselfishness with Kerry Meier, largely because no matter how many times Harris switched positions, the smile always went with him.

“I’m pretty happy with my career so far,” he said. “It’s been pretty solid. But I’m just waiting for this year. I expect a lot out of myself this season, my family expects a lot out of me this season, coach (Turner) Gill expects a lot out of me this season. So I gotta come through.”

The way with which Harris said the last part of that sentence put into perspective the urgency that the cornerback is starting to feel as his final season in Lawrence draws closer.

“Man, it’s gone by so fast,” he said of his time at KU. “It’s just hard to believe. It’s so different now. I watched other guys and learned a lot from them throughout the years, but it’s just crazy how fast your turn comes up.”

Despite Harris being one of the most experienced and accomplished Jayhawks on this year’s roster, he’ll be going through a lot of firsts with his teammates this season.

For starters, there’s first-year coach Gill, hired away from Buffalo last December to take over for Mark Mangino. It didn’t take long for Harris to fall in love with his new head coach and, like many of his teammates, Harris has been re-energized by Gill’s presence, attitude and approach to football.

“He’s definitely a loving coach who wants the best for us,” Harris said of Gill. “A lot of coaches in college football are like robots. But he actually cares for his players and wants the best for us.”

Second, for the first time in years, the Jayhawks won’t have to face all-world quarterbacks Colt McCoy (Texas) and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), both of whom were drafted into the NFL last April.

“Oh yeah. That’s definitely a relief,” Harris said. “Those two are just awesome players. Sam has to be the best player I’ve ever played against. Easily. It’s still going to be hard, their backups were pretty good. (OU quarterback) Landry Jones basically played the whole season and (Texas QB Garrett) Gilbert, he looks like he’s pretty good, too. There’s always going to be good quarterbacks in the Big 12. That’s just the way it is. So there won’t be any days off this season. But I won’t miss those other guys.”

Lastly, Harris will take the field Sept. 4 for the season opener against North Dakota State determined to end the seven-game losing skid that the Jayhawks endured to close out 2009.

“(That) was so tough because it felt like we were so close to winning so many games,” Harris said. “Stuff wouldn’t go our way. That was the tough part. It would have been different if we were getting blown out every game. But we were in a lot of games.

“I’ve never been a part of losing seven games in a row. I’m just ready to get a win.”

Harris and the Jayhawks report to camp Tuesday. The first official practice of his senior year is scheduled for Wednesday.

— KUsports.com Big 12 blogger Eric Sorrentino contributed to this report.

Comments

Mike Kendall 4 years, 1 month ago

Good luck this season, Mr. Harris. If KU could have a half-way decent defense this year, the wins will start to pile up. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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Phoggin_Loud 4 years, 1 month ago

"I expect a lot out of myself this season, my family expects a lot out of me this season, coach (Turner) Gill expects a lot out of me this season. So I gotta come through.”

I love the attitude.

This team seems excited to to play for Coach Gill. That's a great sign.

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Ron Prichard 4 years, 1 month ago

“He’s definitely a loving coach who wants the best for us,” Harris said of Gill. “A lot of coaches in college football are like robots. But he actually cares for his players and wants the best for us.”

I love hearing this. I know a lot of people read this and think, we had the nice guy in Terry Allen, the players need a disciplinarian more than a friend. I think it's funny that Gill gets knocked for his approach, but Self gets a ton of credit for being the same kind of guy. Read the quote from Harris again. How many times have we heard one of the basketball players say something similar? Self is the best coach in college basketball not just for his skills at X's and O's and his recruiting. He gets the most out of his players because he treats them like family. He truly cares about them as people and not just a commodity. To use that old cliche, they want to go to war for him.

I think Gill has that same quality. We've heard it repeated over and over by the players. Just because Gill believes his greatest duty is to "work with young men" and help them in life doesn't mean he can't be a good coach. To the contrary, I think that is why he actually will be a good coach.

Man, I can't wait for football to start!

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hawk316 4 years, 1 month ago

raprichard, well said. Gill and Allen are different kinds of coaches. Allen was a nice guy, but Gill is much more than that. He's a mentor, a father figure who will deeply impact the lives of these players for years to come. He's the real deal.

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Mark Lindrud 4 years, 1 month ago

Couldn't agree more. Lots of people say nice guys finish last, but to be a good person and yet a disciplinarian is possible. Gill reminds me a lot of Tony Dungy, you know the guy who helped build a great team in Indianapolis and won a Super Bowl title.

The team wants to win for each other and their coaching staff. They are hungry to show everyone that last year was a fluke and I think they can do it. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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Randy Bombardier 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree with every word. The guys are going to want to do anything and everything for their beloved coach...even win. I actually wondered if players were not blowing games last year to make Mangino look bad. Gill is going to be our version of Tom Osborne, nice guy who did okay.

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Steven Mathew 4 years, 1 month ago

Does anybody think Chris Harris could make it in the NFL? I think he could be a decent nickel corner.

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Randy Bombardier 4 years, 1 month ago

We will see. Apparently someone thought he had talent. How many freshmen start in the Orange Bowl? This year will be a great year for him. I expect great things from him and that will catapult him into the NFL. If I were him I'd go to the coaches and confide his dreams and ask them to get him ready...whatever it takes. I think they will oblige him.

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number1jayhawker 4 years, 1 month ago

Wasn't he 6" or 6'1" when he got here? lol

I do like this kid and hope he has a great year!

ROCK CHALK!

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hawk316 4 years, 1 month ago

"It didn’t take long for Harris to fall in love with his new head coach and, like many of his teammates, Harris has been re-energized by Gill’s presence, attitude and approach to football."

'He’s definitely a loving coach who wants the best for us,” Harris said of Gill. “A lot of coaches in college football are like robots. But he actually cares for his players and wants the best for us.'

The statements keep piling up, one upon another, until there is now a mountain of evidence to indicate that we have been blessed with a very special man as our head football coach. Turner Gill will build men of character, as well as good football players, and isn't that what we should all want in our coaches? I, for one, would rather have a football coach who goes 6-6, 7-5 (or, yes, even has a losing record) and impacts his players in a deeply significant and positive manner than to have a football coach who goes 10-2, wins bowl games, but does so without much regard to the player's welfare. Of course, I would love to have a coach who cares deeply for his players and wins bowl games, too! :-) And friends, I believe we may just have that in Mr. Gill.

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hawk316 4 years, 1 month ago

I did want to add a quick word for Chris Harris, in case you bother to read these comments. You've had a wonderful career at KU, Chris. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. You've carried yourself well and represented KU in a very positive manner. I hope you have a truly fantastic senior season!

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DevilHawk 4 years, 1 month ago

Everything seems to be going along really well with Gill at the helm, including three commitments in the past four days.

  • Linebacker Jason Hensley (Alma, Arkansas) on the 27th
  • OL Dylan Admire (Blue Valley West) switched from Nebraska to KU on the 30th
  • Wide receiver JaCorey Shepherd (Mesquite, TX) switched from Iowa to KU on the 30th.
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