Sometime not too long ago, Shelby Harris probably couldn’t imagine the situation he’d be in today, preparing to start for the Denver Broncos at nose tackle. He’d always thought he had the talent but not the opportunity, and who knew if or when it would appear for him after a few years bouncing off and on NFL rosters and practice squads. After a recent practice, we caught up with him to hear about his appreciation for his NFL journey, why he feels positive about the upcoming season and why, as a Milwaukee native, he loves NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Why do you feel positive about the upcoming season?
“Because of the team chemistry that we have. We really work well with each other. We’re tired of losing. Everyone’s tired of losing. We all just want to be the best that we can be. And it’s no egos. Everyone just wants each other to be great. And that’s what I feel like is the start of an amazing team and a great season.”
Have you had an experience with Head Coach Vic Fangio that made you go, Oh, man. This guy gets it?
“He was breaking down some defenses in a team meeting and breaking down his offenses, and I was just sitting here like, ‘Man, this man really knows his stuff.’ It’s crazy. And then even watching some of the practices with the defense, I’m literally looking and there’s nobody open. There’s nobody open! What is he supposed to do? What’s the quarterback supposed to do? And it makes you have an appreciation for this defense and his defensive mind.”
You kind of bounced around the league previously before settling in with the Broncos. What drove you to keep working to find a spot like this?
“I just knew that I couldn’t let myself down. You never want to be stuck saying ‘What it?’ and my thing is I always knew I should have been given a chance and never necessarily was. I just always wanted to prove [it] to myself. I knew I could do it and I didn’t want to let my family down. What kind of example would I be setting for my kids if I just gave up on myself? I had to just keep pushing and I had the support of my family and then eventually it just all worked out. I’m happy I stayed the course.”
Now, as you head into the season as a starter, what kind of appreciation do you have for where you’re at because of your previous experience?
“It just teaches you to appreciate every snap every day, because you don’t know when it could be taken from you. I remember my third year in the league, I got signed to Dallas’ practice squad I think Week 16. I was a free agent the whole year, pretty much. My third year I was thinking it could have been over, but it’s just … you don’t know how it feels until it gets taken away from you. It really makes you just go out every day and love what you do, because when those days are gone, you don’t want to leave here with any regrets — especially something you love to do every day. This is a dream come true to be out here every day playing football and I couldn’t be any happier.”
I feel like people don’t really ask you a whole lot about your college experience. Can you tell me a little bit about it and maybe feeling a bit overlooked coming from a smaller school?
“Well, I went to Wisconsin first and then went to Illinois State. I enjoyed my college experience. It taught me a lot, just first going to a big school and then going to a small school. It really opened your eyes to the differences of each school. But I feel like I took advantage of all the opportunities I got out there and I’m not necessarily say I was overlooked, but I’m OK being a diamond in the rough. There’s nothing wrong with that and coming in and start surprising people.”
You’re a big Milwaukee Bucks fan, so can you tell me about your appreciation for Giannis Antetokounmpo and why you love watching him play?
“Man, he plays with so much passion. And being from Milwaukee, it’s not the biggest market, but he has so much love from Milwaukee just for giving him a shot. It kind of reminds me of my love for Denver for giving me a shot. But he plays just with so much energy and passion, how could you not love it? … Every day, he goes hard and he puts on for the city of Milwaukee, so I just love it. … He’s our MVP and we always just want to say we support him 100 percent. He has all of Milwaukee behind him.”
You’ve always struck me as a pretty well-rounded person. Have you thought about what you might like to do after your NFL career?
“Obviously everyone wants to make enough money to where you don’t have to work, but I would love to be in sales. I love to talk to people. I love being around people. I really just feel that I couldn’t do a desk job. I’ve got to do something that interacts with people. So me and my wife are starting to come up with things, trying to figure out what’s next regardless. The NFL has great programs, and honestly I would love to be an NFL broadcaster, either doing radio or TV. I think that’d fit me perfectly. I think this summer I’ll do a couple of the bootcamps and try to get my foot in the door for those.”