ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Chris Harris Jr.'s 2014 did not start out as he had hoped. On Jan. 12, Harris tore his ACL during the Broncos' AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Chargers.
He watched the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl from the sideline.
Since then, he has fully recovered from his injury in a remarkably fast amount of time. While his knee has healed, there have been a few more momentous occasions in 2014: A new baby, a new contract and a Pro Bowl selection.
This year has been one for the books for Chris Harris Jr. and he's soaking it all in.
"It's a great honor," Harris said of his first Pro Bowl selection. "Just coming back from an ACL and [to] get honored from this, making the Pro Bowl is a huge deal for me, definitely."
Throughout his career, Harris has overcome the odds. He signed with the Broncos as a college free agent in 2011. He worked his way up the ranks by shining on special teams and eventually earned a starting spot.
He suffered a torn ACL in Denver's AFC Divisional Playoff Game last season, but has come back to start all 15 games for the Broncos in 2014.
"I mean, it's been a roller-coaster year," Harris said. "Like I said, it started bad, not being able to play in the Super Bowl and having to recover from an ACL. It's just – I worked extremely hard. People don't really understand how hard I had to work to get to this point, and I'm just blessed to be able to say I'm a Pro Bowler."
According to Pro Football Focus, he currently ranks second in the NFL with a 47.3 quarterback rating allowed against him. Pro Football Focus also ranks him as the No. 1 corner in the league and he is often matched up with teams' top receivers.
Despite his lights-out play, he didn't receive a significant amount of fan votes, finishing outside of the top ten in fan voting at the position. But that didn't bother him at all, because to receive votes from other players and coaches is even more special to him. He is the first undrafted cornerback to be named to a Pro Bowl with his original team since Dallas' Everson Walls in 1981.
One of his teammates who is especially knowledgeable about the journey he's gone through from sidelined to Pro Bowl is Von Miller, who rehabbed his ACL alongside the corner.
"All this stuff is really not a surprise to me," Miller said. "Good things happen to good people and he's having a great year and I was there to witness it, like, firsthand. I probably got a better viewpoint of some of his success than anybody else on the team because I spent every single day with him. So it's definitely not a surprise for me and I'm definitely happy for Chris, but I saw it all coming from way back in like March."
Harris said that if Miller was "halfway normal" he would be selected to the Pro Bowl. Like Chris, Miller has had a standout season with 55 total tackles, 13 sacks and two passes defensed.
What the two went through together in rehabilitating their knees makes their two selections even more special.
"But I mean this is a great honor man, just to be there with him," Harris said. "Like you said, we worked so hard just to come back here and just to be better players and it was definitely – it was so tough, I'll never forget, just watching the AFC Championship on the sideline with him. Being like, 'This is the worst thing ever,' and then coming back and making it to the Pro Bowl with him this year, it's like night and day."
So far this season, Harris has totaled 53 tackles, one sack, 16 passes defensed and three interceptions. When Executive VP of Football Operations/General Manager Elway announced Harris' 5-year extension earlier this month, he had high praise for the Kansas product.
"Here's a guy that in his fourth year with the Broncos, you can talk about where he started and where he's come from, and it's the same old adage that we say every year is that it doesn't matter where you're drafted or how you get here," Elway said. "The bottom line is—hopefully we can coach them—but the bottom line is it comes from the player. It comes from the player from inside out and what he can do as a player. I think Chris represents everything that we'd like to see in a Denver Bronco."
The Broncos had a league-best nine players selected to play in the Pro Bowl, which is tied for the second most in team history. Harris said the Broncos' roster is filled with playmakers and impact players.
While he is extremely thankful for the selection, he has other goals in mind: "Guys want to get nominated to it, but we don't want to play in it."
Peyton Manning broke down the huddle at Wednesday's practice, where the Broncos went in hats and no pads on a sunny Christmas Eve.