- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

BIXBY, Okla. (AP) - To get to Spartan Stadium last week, Chris Harris Jr. drove down a street that since last summer has been named after him, Chris Harris Jr. Road.

“Really?” said Harris, the first player from Bixby to make the NFL.

“I didn’t even notice that. But that’s always the way it is when I come back to Oklahoma, and especially to Bixby. People show so much love,” Harris told the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1Wm8hxm ).

A cornerback who helped the Denver Broncos win this year’s Super Bowl, Harris came back to Bixby High School to offer the second annual Underdog Academy football camp, where more than 250 young players lined up to meet Harris and to run drills under his supervision.

Of course, the chances are slim that any of these kids will grow up to play in the NFL like Harris, who helped Bixby get to the 2005 state championship game before going to play for the University of Kansas Jayhawks.

That’s why he wanted the main lesson from Friday’s camp to be more generally applicable to life, not just to football.

“You’re going to hit some rough patches,” Harris warned the kids. “You’re going to run into obstacles. People are going to say ‘you can’t do it.’ But you have to persevere. You have to keep working hard and believing in yourself.”

The students were too young to remember Harris playing for Bixby, and their parents might have a hard time remembering, too. He didn’t seem to attract much attention from the press back then, even though he was named All-State in football and basketball, and he didn’t get a college scholarship from a football powerhouse.

Then, he failed to receive an NFL combine invite and went undrafted in 2011, winding up with the Broncos as a free agent.

Harris calls his annual football camp the Underdog Academy for a reason.

“It doesn’t matter where you start out, it’s where you end up,” he said. “That’s what I want these kids to understand.”

In his first season in Denver, Harris was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team and won praise as Breakout Player of the Year. And now, after five seasons in the league, he not only has a Super Bowl ring but is widely considered one of the best cornerbacks in the game.

“It makes me want to do my best,” said 10-year-old Josh Flake, who waited in line nearly an hour to get into Friday’s camp. “If he can do it, I can.”

Between drills, the students heard tips from the Tulsa Anti-Bullying Collaboration.

“Step up and help people when they need it,” said Steve Hahn, the group’s director who encouraged the students to follow Harris’ example as much off the field as on it. “His message is all about being the underdog, and real leadership is reaching out and helping the underdog.”


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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