This is it, the final fine-tuning game before the 2013 season gets underway. As both the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs inch closer and closer to Thursday’s kickoff, many players on both teams are preparing to leave it all on the field as they make their final arguments as to why they should be playing in the NFL this season.
One of the players looking to seal the deal and to secure a roster spot this week is Chiefs’ tight end Demetrius Harris. Harris spent the past two years playing basketball as a UW-Milwaukee Panther. Before coming to UWM, Harris had the option to continue his football career at Arkansas State but instead decided to play basketball in Milwaukee. On Wednesday, I got a chance to speak with Harris about his first NFL training camp.
After playing basketball in college, Harris is looking to follow in the footsteps of other tight ends with basketball backgrounds, like the Packers’ own Jermichael Finley, who will be opposite Harris in Thursday’s game. While Harris isn’t quite at the same level as Finley, he considers Finley to be one of the former hoops star-turned-NFL tight ends that he looks up to:
I look up to Jermichael Finley but I’m not there where he is at this point. He’s athletic and all that and so am I. Usually, I try to compare myself to all the tight ends with the basketball background and learn from them. It’s all about being able to put it all together and trying to do it better than the greats of the past and present.
While Harris was honing his skills on the basketball court over the past few years, many of his peers were playing football consistently in college. Harris knows that there is work to be done and he has a little catching up to do if he wants to maximize his potential on the field at this level.
It’s coming along but at first, things were slow. Getting in the film room early and adopting other good work habits was the key. The transition was tough at first. It’s all coming to me faster. I’ve learned a lot more since joining the Chiefs. Many of the other guys have been around and know the playbook and the system. I’m not quite there yet but I’m catching up.
Surely after spending the past few seasons playing basketball in the world that revolves around the Packers, Harris would be influenced to become a Packers maniac, right? Wrong. Outside of the Chiefs, Harris grew up as a fan of two other popular NFL teams. When I asked if he has become a big Packers fan, he said:
Nah, I was really a Cowboys and Patriots fan. I watch them [the Packers] every now and then. I do know from experience how crazy Wisconsin is about their Packers, just coming from up there. I see they’re die-hard fans and they have a good fan base up there.
While Harris has already impressed coaches and scouts in his short time in the NFL, he feels that after four weeks of learning the playbook, the world has yet to see the best Demetrius Harris on the field.
Going into first game I didn’t know the playbook well. This week I feel a lot more confident. I know more techniques. I know the routes and everything and I feel really, really good going in.
As far as his people back in Wisconsin, they surely haven’t forgotten about the upstart Harris, as they have sent him a plethora of text messages heading into the Thursday night game. Here's Harris talking about that subject:
Oh I get a ton of messages. From ‘I hope the Chiefs lose but you do well,’ to ‘I can’t believe you’re in the NFL, playing against your home team,’ it’s fun looking at the texts coming back from Milwaukee.
Thursday night, Harris will have an opportunity to show the Chiefs why he deserves a roster spot. He feels that the key to a good performance is the remain cool and confident.
My mindset is to just let everything go. You have to focus but you can’t overthink things. Have confidence, relax and have fun. I know I can do it and I’m going to go out and have fun. We’re ready and I know the Packers are ready. The team with the fewest mistakes will go home with the win.
With an potentially season-ending injury to the oft-injured Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki, Harris’ chances of making the team have increased. If he shows up against Green Bay, the former Milwaukee Panther basketball star could just seal the deal.
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