Senior Spotlight: Lionel Harris

Lionel Harris grew up in Alvin, Texas, a town south of Houston. As a prep football player, he remembers visits from former CU assistant coaches Eric Bieniemy and Vance Joseph.

"They were on me," Lionel Harris said earlier this week. "They were telling me straight up the way it was going to be: ‘You're going to come here and contribute and be part of a big-name program.' They were telling me, ‘We want to win a national championship and we need your help.'"

That was five years ago. Obviously, a national championship didn't come for Harris or the Buffs. Friday, Harris and 15 of his senior CU teammates will wear the black and gold for the final time in front of the home crowd. The Buffs host Nebraska beginning at 10 a.m.

The Buffs, 5-6, may have a chance to play in a bowl game if they win Friday.

"I'm sad for this to be the last time," Harris said. "This better not be the last time I put on this uniform, but last time in this stadium – it's getting to me."

Harris also said he's going into Friday's game with some anxious thoughts. The senior safety redshirted his first year, then appeared in just 36 plays his next two seasons. As a junior, Harris started six of the Buffs' final seven games after J.J. Billingsley was hurt. Harris responded with 67 tackles.

This year, he was used sparingly until the Buffs' most recent game. Harris started in the loss at Iowa State after starter Ryan Walters missed the game with an injury. (Walters is expected to be back in the lineup Friday.) Harris' second quarter interception set up a Colorado touchdown in Ames.

"You've kind of got insecurities. You're not sure if you left your mark," Harris said about playing his final game at Folsom. "But you just go out there and do your best."

He's dedicated the game to his younger brother, Johnathon, 19, a sophomore cornerback at Emporia State, a Division II school in Kansas.

"He's been my strength," Harris said. "Some things we went through when we were younger, he was always there for me. I tried to always be there for him."

Other than that personal sentiment, Harris plans nothing different for Friday.

"Everything else is the same – I'm going to go out and play my hardest," he said. "Be everywhere I can be, do my job."

His first season at CU, Harris' job was on the scout team. That's when the rivalry aspect of the Colorado-Nebraska game first sunk in.

As they have this year, in 2003, the scout team taped their helmets and put an "N" on them, then wore red jerseys in practice during Nebraska week.

"It used to be where we would stretch separately from people that were playing," he said. T"he seniors were mean. That's when the rivalry hit home. It's a big deal."

Harris will graduate with a degree in sociology next month. He said he may pursue a career in criminology one day.

Harris didn't win a national title during his time at Colorado. He may not have even cracked the starting lineup as often as he would have liked. Things don't always turn out like you hope they will. But Harris wouldn't change his uniform for any other.

Asked what advice he might give a high school football player thinking about being a Buffalo — someone in the same position he was in five years ago — Harris didn't hesitate.

"It's an honor to be a Colorado Buffalo," he said. "You're going to go through changes, you're going to go through trials and tribulations. But every trial, every tribulation, you get back up and you're better than you were before.

"This is a program where you can (learn to) succeed in life, on the field and off the field. It's a good place, a good environment to learn in."


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