ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee convenes on Feb. 2 to select the Class of 2019, Chris Harris Jr. thinks Champ Bailey should be a clear choice.
“He deserves it,” Harris said Monday of his former teammate. “First-ballot, that’d be an amazing honor. He’s one of the best to ever do it, so I’m excited to see him go in. I think he goes in this year, first-ballot.”
Harris played three seasons alongside Bailey, who was winding down a career in which he tallied 12 Pro Bowl appearances and three First-Team All-Pro selections.
Even then, Bailey provided frequent reminders why he was among the game’s best. In the Broncos’ Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in January of 2012, Bailey blanketed Steelers receiver Mike Wallace all afternoon.
With just over four minutes to play in the game and the Broncos clinging to a seven-point lead, Bailey made a play that has stuck with Harris in the years since.
Off play-action, Ben Roethlisberger looked deep for Wallace in the end zone with Bailey and Quinton Carter in coverage. Wallace was open, and he likely would’ve caught the ball for a score if not for Bailey, who caught up to Wallace and undercut the route. He nearly intercepted the pass.
“The craziest play I think Champ made was vs. the Steelers in the playoffs,” Harris said. “He came out of nowhere and batted the ball [away] from Mike Wallace.
“[I thought], ‘He can still do it. He can still move.’”
In his prime, Bailey was a cornerback who Harris said could contribute in a variety of ways for a team.
“[He was] just able to be a complete player and play the run, pass, guard No. 1 receivers, just be able to do everything,” Harris said.
And as Harris took the first steps in his own career, he learned from the player who is now on the precipice of a gold jacket.
Harris said Bailey was instrumental in teaching him technique, the fundamentals of the game and how to prepare for the NFL game.
He hasn’t forgotten those lessons as he’s compiled a career in which he’s earned a First-Team All-Pro selection and three Pro Bowl nods.
“I definitely took some tools off Champ [and] Ronde Barber, a lot of those guys,” Harris said. “But Champ, he was right here, so he gave me a lot of different tools I could use and I still use the same things. It stays with me.”
Now, Harris says, it’s time Bailey gets the recognition he deserves.