Saturday was one of the biggest days in Chris Harris’ life.
The undrafted college free agent would learn whether his hard work over the last five weeks in training camp with the Denver Broncos, and over the last five months during the offseason, would pay off or if he would be left unemployed.
So what did the 22-year old cornerback do during the day to prepare himself for his fate?
“I slept, man,” Harris said. “And I bought a PS3 (Sony Playstation 3) and just tried to keep my mind off of it.”
Harris wasn’t sure what the coaches’ and front office staff’s decision would be. The Broncos brought 17 undrafted college free agents into training camp and have typically kept only one for the regular season.
But Harris said he was pretty calm knowing that he did his best in showing the coaches what he could do.
“I wasn’t really too worried, because I did all I could and went as hard as I could during the camp and preseason games,” Harris said. “Whatever God had planned for me was going to happen, but I wasn’t too worried, because I did the best I could.”
That effort made Harris a Denver Bronco.
Harris was the only college free agent the Broncos signed onto the active roster, marking the eighth straight year the team came out of training camp with at least one college free agent on the 53-man roster. Harris notched eight solo tackles in the preseason and led the team with six special-teams stops — and the coaches noticed that production.
“He showed toughness, coverage ability, feistiness, aggressiveness, and that’s all on defense in practice and in games,” General Manager Brian Xanders said. “On the preseason tape, as it went on, he became one of the better corners on special teams. He was physical; he was fast; he was tough, so he fit the traits for that fourth or fifth corner.”
During training camp, coaches have said that a player’s ability to quickly learn the playbook, especially with the shortened offseason, could be the difference between a player making a roster or not. Harris thinks that ability, plus his versatility, is what set him apart from other players.
“The ability to play multiple positions, grasping the defense well, playing corner and nickel and playing special teams (is what set me apart),” Harris said. “I learned the whole defense in that short span of a month real fast so I think that helped me a lot.”
Usually teams sign college free agents in the few days following the NFL draft in April, and those players have all summer to learn the playbook. But with clubs unable to contact undrafted players for most of the offseason, Harris trained for months without knowing if any team would give him a shot to play in the NFL.
He’s thankful the Broncos gave him that opportunity, and now he’s ready to validate their confidence in him.
“It’s a big accomplishment, because we — (the college free agents) — were in limbo,” Harris said. “There was a lockout; we didn’t know where we were going to be. We didn’t know if we were going to get that call, so I definitely cherish it a lot. It still hasn’t hit me, really. It has hit me, but it’s like, ‘I’m here now; it’s time to go.’”