Wednesday, March 16, 2011
When Kansas University senior Chris Harris arrived on campus before the 2007 season, he was a cornerback. Nothing more, nothing less.
But after playing four or five different positions during his four-year career at Kansas, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound NFL hopeful is prepared to be whatever he needs to be to get his shot at pro football.
“Right now, I’m everything,” Harris said Monday night. “I’m a defensive back. Moving to safety hurt me, projection-wise, because I was rated higher at corner. If I would’ve stayed there, I might have had a chance to go to (last month’s NFL) combine.”
With that no longer possible, Harris’ focus has been on showcasing his skills for a host of NFL scouts at KU’s annual pro day, today at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
Harris has been waiting for this moment for months. After losing to Missouri in the season finale in late November, Harris took a week off to recharge his body and then got back in the weight room. During the week, in addition to going to classes with an eye on graduating in May, Harris has worked out with KU strength coach John Williams. On weekends, he’s gone to Emporia to work with speed specialist, Matt Walter.
The main skill that Harris aimed to improve in preparation for next month’s NFL Draft was his speed. Consistently clocked in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash, Harris has hopes of dipping below that mark in front of the handful of NFL scouts in Lawrence today.
“I play DB, and speed is what they want and what they like, so it’s definitely been something I’ve been focusing on,” he said. “My main goal is to show ’em I’m strong enough to play safety and fast enough to play corner. (Today’s) definitely a big day for me, just to get my name out there. Once they see my times and see what I can do in position work, hopefully they’ll see that I can play.”
In addition to working out with Williams and Walter, Harris has been getting some help from a former teammate and current NFL player. That kind of advantage has him hoping for big things on draft day.
“Stuckey’s been here the whole time,” said Harris of former KU safety and current San Diego Charger Darrell Stuckey. “We run through position drills with him and make sure we do all the stuff that the coaches will be looking for. We’re getting that critical coaching from Stuck, man. He knows everything.”
Harris and Stuckey haven’t been alone in their workouts. Several members of KU’s senior class also have been busting their butts in preparation for pro day. All of them are hopeful of being invited to an NFL training camp — provided the league works out its collective bargaining situation and has a season in 2011 — and senior lineman Brad Thorson said he believed anywhere from eight to 10 Jayhawks would get a look.
Those who may join Harris and Thorson at today’s pro day: cornerback Calvin Rubles, defensive end Jake Laptad, linebackers Drew Dudley and Justin Springer, running back Angus Quigley, wide receiver Johnathan Wilson, punter Alonso Rojas and place kicker Jacob Branstetter.
KU officials said they did not know how many scouts would attend today’s event. Last year, 11 NFL teams were represented at KU’s pro day, but that number was higher than normal because three future draft picks — Stuckey and wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier — were participating.