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Former Jayhawk Chris Harris' huge performance on Monday Night Football

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, right, runs for a touchdown after intercepting San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, right, runs for a touchdown after intercepting San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) by Matt Tait

Making his second start of the 2012 season, former Kansas University cornerback and current Denver Bronco, Chris Harris, made quite a name for himself on Monday Night Football during Denver’s 35-24, come-from-behind victory over San Diego.

Harris, a 2011 KU grad, known by all of those who ever covered him as one of the nicest dudes around, finished with two interceptions, four tackles and the game-clinching pick-six touchdown during Denver’s historic comeback. The Broncos' victory, after digging out of a 24-0 halftime hole, was the biggest comeback in Monday Night Football history.

Harris’ success in the NFL has caught many by surprise, and it’s a classic example of one of those situations where raw talent and a ton of hard work can pay off for these players in the end.

It happens all the time in the NBA. How many random point guards have you come across where you have to look up where he went to college or wonder why you’ve never heard of him?

Harris, no doubt, is one of those guys for NFL fans everywhere but, to the Broncos, he’s an absolute steal.

Not only has he produced on the field, he already has become a fan-favorite around the Denver area for his signature smile and never-ending kindness. He's done a ton of charity work in the city and also is a regular weekly guest on a local talk radio show.

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) reacts after making an interception as free safety Rahim Moore (26) and strong safety Mike Adams, left, watch during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) reacts after making an interception as free safety Rahim Moore (26) and strong safety Mike Adams, left, watch during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) by Matt Tait

For those who watched him in college, Harris’ rise to NFL starter came as quite a surprise. After starting opposite future first-rounder Aqib Talib for the Jayhawks in the Orange Bowl, Harris’ next few seasons were a little quieter. He always seemed solid, but rarely stood out as a guy who had an NFL future. Part of the reason for that was coaching, as Harris was moved around to a lot of different positions and was not always used in a way that showcased his strengths. He never complained. Instead, he soaked up everything he could from each position and each coach, and it was that versatility and depth of knowledge that caught NFL eyes.

Another thing Harris did during all this time was work — hard. I’ve never seen a player get so much bigger and so much better in the few months between the end of his senior season and that April’s Draft as I did with Harris. The leap he made was immediately noticeable and very impressive.

I love the guy, and he was a favorite of mine from his freshman year on. But, love him or not, he definitely was a guy that you had to feel good for when everything worked out the way it did.

Harris joined Denver as an undrafted free agent following the 2011 NFL Draft. He had interest and offers from other teams but chose Denver because he believed he had a chance to play. He was right.

While playing in all 16 games as a rookie in 2011, including making four starts, Harris finished among the top five rookies in total tackles and was one of the true bright spots on a Denver defense that helped quarterback Tim Tebow lead the Broncos to the second round of the playoffs.

He finished the season with 72 tackles and one interception. He had two picks tonight while giving new Denver QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense a chance at the crazy comeback. Heck, Harris was so good that former NFL coach and current MNF broadcaster Jon Gruden named him one of his two "Gruden Grinders" for the night. This, just a week after former NFL QB and current CBS broadcaster Phil Simms called Harris "one of the best slot defenders in the NFL."

There were a dozen big plays Monday night by some names far bigger than Harris. But when the game was on the line, it was the former Jayhawk who sealed the deal. And, for those in Jayhawkland who were watching, Harris’ name was the biggest of them all.

What a night.

Comments

kureader 2 years, 1 month ago

Geez ... that's what I'd call "working over time", Matt.
You're undoubtedly underpaid, but not underappreciated. Nice Article.

Matt Tait 2 years, 1 month ago

You're too kind. Glad you enjoyed it. Chris' story is unbelievable. And I'm telling you, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Marcus Balzer 2 years, 1 month ago

Was my neighbor in the D Block towers. Lived w/ Talib. Good guy like Tait said. Recently got married over the summer as well. Hard work pays off so much respect to CH.

crazyarms 2 years, 1 month ago

Do you even watch football? Chris Harris is a cornerback not a strong safety as it says in the photo captions. Embarrassing really to make that mistake and write football articles...

Matt Tait 2 years, 1 month ago

I don't know about you, but it sure seems clear to me that I'm well aware of who Chris Harris is and what position he plays...

That was the caption attached to the photo, which was taken (and written) by Associated Press photographer Denis Poroy, as it shows at the end. I'll see if I can fix it. Not sure if it'll let me, though.

VaJay 2 years, 1 month ago

It must be SOOOO difficult to bite your tongue and not tear into morons like this one. Just remember that for every one of them, there are hundreds of loyal Jayhawk fans that are thankful and appreciative of your efforts and everyone else that makes this such a great website.

David A. Smith 2 years, 1 month ago

LOL!!!.........How can you read the above article, and not get a clear understanding that Tait knows what he's talking about? As always, very nice work Matt.

LAJayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Wait, do you hear that? Listen closely.... can you hear it?

That's the sound of LAJayhawk laughing from 1600 miles away as crazyarms got OWNED by Matt Tait.... courteously and professionally, of course. :-)

Rock Chalk, Matt. Great post.

Brendan Connolly 2 years, 1 month ago

Might I suggest you write an article about not bring literate as it is pretty clear the photo and caption were not written by Tait? I swear some people just like to whine.

Ken Schmidt 2 years, 1 month ago

Matt. You rock. Thanks for continuing to provide interesting, unique, insightful articles for KU football fans (who continue to be strongly loyal) to enjoy each day.

jhawkbacker 2 years, 1 month ago

Hate the Broncos but I always like watching just hoping Harris does well. Pumped for him. We need stories like this to balance out Talib's headlines. Great article Matt.

Stan Unruh 2 years, 1 month ago

Tait...that is some first class, late night effort on your part. Thanks. It was a great game and Harris is an even better story.

april28 2 years, 1 month ago

Must be something about the number "25" and the Jayhawks! Matt, thanks for the story and background on Harris. When you say "what a night", I've got to think it will be one of the most memorable of his life.

This is a story that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And, as a dad, it's a story that I'm sharing with both my kids as an example of how hard work can definitely get you were you want to be.

neutron84728 2 years, 1 month ago

I am just guessing that you didn't have that big smile in the first half Matt. And also guessing you had that big smile most all of the fourth quarter. I've learned you just don't ever count Peyton out! Good for you my friend.

MinnesotaJay 2 years, 1 month ago

Am really happy for Chris. Thanks for the great article, Matt.

tical523 2 years, 1 month ago

Awesome stuff, my claim to fame is that I played against and tried to guard him the first time he ever played basketball at the KU Rec years ago. Gread dude, I was so excited for him last night!!!! Good stuff Tait.

CardHawkFan 2 years, 1 month ago

I love to keep tabs on former 'Hawks, especially Harris. This guy just has a knack for making plays and is often used on corner blitz packages as well. Although days have been dreary hear in KU football land, I think if you take a peek around the league, there are more Jayhawks in the the league than have been for a while (scroll down Denver's roster page and you will find another...actually Stuckey was on the other side of the field). It just shows we have had some good players come through here, so there is hope that better days to come. RCJH #25!

By the way, there wasn't any extra pleasure because it was the Broncos, huh Tait? Keep up the good work. Much appreciated.

buckleyhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Nice article Tait...the fact that he's doing it all for the Broncos probably doesn't hurt either, right...

kwhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

I know the article is about Harris and how great he was....but I might mention another Jayhawk, a Mr. Darrell Stuckey played some snaps for the other team as well! Recorded 3 tackles, 2 solo. I love seeing those Hawks in the NFL!

Scott Smetana 2 years, 1 month ago

Great article. Watch those Broncos enough and you all might become fans! It's tough to root against Peyton... he's amazing. Go Broncos!

ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 1 month ago

Nice story but wrong angle. I would of went with a Brock Berglund/Payton Manning comparison and what we are missing out on.

Lance Cheney 2 years, 1 month ago

That's what we refer to in the biz as a callback! Haha, I actually like it!

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 1 month ago

I can't think of two KU players that were better representatives of the university than Harris and Stuckey. Two of the best dudes that ever played football at KU.

I was always rooting for Harris. I was surprised that he never really broke out after his freshman season. It makes me very glad that is doing so well.

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