Denver Broncos | News

After spectacular season, Harris Jr. looks to stay on track


PHOENIX —** Sometimes the more you think about something, the less sense it makes.

Like Chris Farley and David Spade in the movie Black Sheep breaking down the word "road" until it was incomprehensible, when you break down the moments that made up Chris Harris Jr.'s last 12 months, it's hard to fathom the path he traveled since having knee surgery one year ago.

And his "ro-ad" has not been an easy one.

After a meteoric rise to the starting lineup at cornerback after signing with the Broncos as an undrafted player out of Kansas, Harris' great 2013 season was cut short in the Divisional round of the playoffs last year against the Chargers, forcing him to the sideline and the operating room while many of his teammates continued on their Super Bowl run.

Doctors generally ballpark ACL recovery taking up to or around a year, but Harris came back at an unprecedented speed in half that time.

It was just the beginning of a stunning year for Harris, though the rehab cut into his offseason conditioning training. Harris would be back on the field for the season's start, but his early play was limited.

As the season went on, Harris quickly recovered his conditioning and progressed to a level that we hadn't seen before. He didn't give up a single touchdown the entire season, earning respect as a top cornerback in the NFL en route to his first Pro Bowl.

It was a whirlwind season for Harris, who had his share of prolific life events off the field, too. He and his wife, Leah, welcomed their first child, Aria, in October, and less than two months later, Harris was rewarded for his outstanding play with a five-year contract.

All in all, it was not only a defining year for his career capped with his first Pro Bowl nod with this trip to Arizona, but his life, too.

"It's a surreal moment, it's an awesome moment," he said. "It just really motivated me to come back here every year. I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure that I've got a place, this spot every year."

His selection to the Pro Bowl was no surprise to those who watch him on a weekly basis, but Harris doesn't have the name recognition that other cornerbacks have built. So his Pro Bowl addition didn't come through in the fan voting, but it came via his peers on the field from coaches and other players. And that's the way it's been his whole career working his way up as an undrafted player out of college.

"I had to really go above and beyond in play on the field to get noticed, being an undrafted player," Harris said. "Just to be here and to be selected by my peers, it just means a lot. It means they notice what I'm doing out there on the field. The way I got into the Pro Bowl is so different because I didn't have any fan votes. I got through by the coaches and the players, so that made it even more special."

"It finally came together this year to where I can really get noticed and stand out for other people to notice me," he added. "That's just something that I always wanted."

Now that he reached this level, his focus won't lessen but he'll just reach for greater heights, continuing to sharpen his game.

"I'm 25 years old. There's still things I can improve on and get better. The past three years I've only had three interceptions three years in a row. So that's something, getting over that three INT mark and so there's things I can do to try to get things up next year."

A year ago, his offseason was just rehab day in and day out, working to get back in playing shape and getting completely healthy. Now that he'll have the entire offseason to build off a healthy and extremely impressive season, he'll be able to spend time in other ways in not recovering from injury.

And with a new addition to his family, he'll have time to spend with Aria, now about three months old.

"Once March comes, I usually take the whole month of March of just training to get better. I'm still 25 years old, so I'm still young. So I still have a lot of improvement to make. I'm not going to change up anything from my regular routine I've done in the past, but I'll just hang out with my daughter a little bit more."

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