Player Intro: Chris Harris

Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin's Chris Harris on the rise

Springfield's Sacred Heart Griffin is a perennial Powerhouse in the Central Illinois area of high school football. One of the players they rely upon heavily now is junior tailback Chris Harris.

Harris plays on both sides of the ball for SHG, but his bread and butter is toting the rock.

"I just play mostly running back and a little outside linebacker," he said. "Running back is my natural position though. I've always played there."

For some athletes, the expectations placed on the SHG program mean a lot of pressure, but Harris uses it for motivation.

"I feel like playing with them is a tougher program," he said. "We probably work harder than a lot of other schools. We're known for what we do in football, and it's a tradition wearing those gold helmets."

An injury slowed Harris's start to this season, but once he got back, he got right back to work and has been an important factor for his team.

I missed the first two games of the season with a high ankle sprain in practice," Harris said. "When I got back on the field it felt really good to be back out there with the team and play again. The only tough part was getting back to game form. I've been fine ever since and I was ready to go, but getting back to game speed was tough. I was tired from all the adrenaline rush and everything, but after that I settled down and I've been doing fine."

Since coming back, Harris has been very productive and efficient, making the most of each of his carries. His numbers are impressive, despite splitting a lot of the carries with another back.

"Actually, I have about 60 carries for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns," he said. "Right now I'm averaging about 13 yards a carry. I've split time at running back last year and this year, but last year I had more carries. It's pretty balanced between the two of us. With me playing both ways though, it's good to have another back back there with me."

Last year, Harris averaged just over 7.2 yards per carry, but this year he's seen that increase by almost 5 yards per carry. So what's the difference between last year and this year?

"I got a lot stronger from last year and put on weight," he said. "I'm getting a lot more yards after contact and I'm reading the field better. Visually things are moving slower so I'm not rushing things anymore."

Once the season started, Harris zoned in on improving himself physically, and worked until he got to game form.

"I'm about 6'0" 190 pounds," Harris said. "I got up to 205 this summer but I've lost weight this season. It was a good weight loss, because now I'm more solid. It wasn't bad weight, I just needed to lose that weight. I look the same, I just transformed some of it into the right stuff."

Harris and his SHG team took their first loss of the season this past weekend to an out of state opponent in Indianapolis powerhouse Cathedral on a game that was broadcast on TV. Still, Harris and his SHG team are undefeated against teams from Illinois, and they're seeking to take home an important title this weekend.

"We lost to Cathedral from Indianapolis," he said, "but we're still undefeated in Illinois and in our conference. We play for the conference championship this weekend."

Despite missing the first two games, Harris has already been hearing from a lot of schools in the area and a few from a little farther from home.

"I've talked to Northern Illinois, Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, North Dakota, Indiana, Ball State, Iowa State, and Wyoming," he said. "They're saying that they usually wait a little later to offer unless you're a real top player. A lot of them want to see mid-season highlight tapes to see how I've improved."

Part of what got Harris noticed was an active summer at some college camps.

"I went to camps at Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Iowa State," Harris said. "For some of the camps, I just played defense. At Illinois I played running back and at Iowa State I played both. It was good competition and good to see where I was going against different people."

Harris's interests in schools won't be too strongly influenced by any school he grew up watching.

"I didn't really grow up following any school in particular," he said "but LSU is probably my favorite team right now."

Harris's exposure to Illinois came at the satellite camp in Peoria this past summer. He's been trying to get to a game, but hasn't been able to yet. He will, however, make a trip out of state soon.

"I went to the Illinois camp up in Peoria," he said. "I felt like I did pretty good up there. I compared well to everybody there. I talked to a few of the coaches and they said they'd stay in contact. They want me to come up to a game sometime to watch. I haven't had a chance yet, but I want to get up to a game. I haven't been able to make it to any colleges yet. Next weekend I'm going to a game at Western Kentucky though."

Still just a junior, Harris hasn't put a ton of thought into how he'll grade the various schools he'll see along the way, but he does have some basic characteristics that he will be looking for.

"I haven't really thought too much about what I'll be looking at in a school," he said. "I really want to see if it's a place where I'd like to be in school for four years. The campus and education and how they graduate their players there. The program and everything."

But Harris and his Sacred Heart Griffin team still have plenty of football to play, and the road to a state championship run is right around the bend.

"Right now we just need to stay focused, play hard, and go out and want it more than the other team," said Harris, who will certainly be a guy to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

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