Harris Feeling It

Chris Harris was on top of the world. After all, he had just finished his freshman season at Kansas in style. Chris Harris started 11 of 12 games at cornerback and was named a freshman honorable mention All-American by the Sporting News and the Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

Chris Harris recorded 65 tackles (No. 6 on team) and two interceptions, including one against Virginia Tech in KU's Orange Bowl victory.

Coming off a great rookie campaign and being an integral part of the greatest season in KU football history (12-1), Harris entered his sophomore year with great expectations.

But something happened last season. He lost his confidence, his play suffered, and suddenly he lost his starting job after seven games and was switched to nickelback. Without All-American cornerback Aqib Talib, Harris and KU's secondary struggled, ranking No. 114 in the nation in pass defense.

"I couldn't get anything to go," Harris said. "I was in a slump. My confidence went down. I don't know why I (wasn't) playing good. I just felt like I wasn't contributing enough to help this team win so I didn't feel like I was playing enough to my abilities."

Harris is singing a different tune this season. His confidence is back, his swagger has returned, and he's a starter once again. After starting at nickelback in KU's season opener against Northern Colorado, the junior's started at cornerback the last three games. Harris is coming off a grand performance against Southern Mississippi last Saturday in KU's 35-28 victory, recording a career-high 15 tackles, including two for loss. He also had a pass breakup.

Entering Big 12 play on Oct. 10 against Iowa State, Harris is KU's leading tackler with 32, including a team-high 24 solo stops. He has 3.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.

Harris, quite simply, is arguably KU's feel good story of the year.

"I think Chris is one of our most improved players since last season," KU coach Mark Mangino said.

Harris had been dreaming all offseason of the 2009 campaign, that first game, that first chance to show Kansas football fans, the coaching staff, and himself what he could do. He rose to the challenge and was the difference maker in KU's 49-3 victory over Northern Colorado in his season debut. Harris was a non-stop motor all over the field, posting seven tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, while also adding one pass breakup, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble.

"I've been waiting for this game forever," Harris said with a huge smile. "Just knowing I put in the work, knowing I can make plays, the confidence once you make that first play, it all rolls down."

His teammates certainly believe in him.

"He's pretty athletic and he has a lot of confidence," senior safety Darrell Stuckey said after the Northern Colorado game. "We help him a lot and support him in all the different entities he may take up on our defense. He's just a player who's going to do what it takes to help this team. I think that's what motivates him the most."

Harris is smiling and enjoying himself this season after a rough 2008. He said his lowest point last season was at Iowa State, KU's fifth game of the season, where he "wasn't playing good (and) starting doubting myself." Two games later, Oklahoma shredded KU's secondary for 45 points in a Sooners' victory. Mangino then decided to change things up and replaced Harris at cornerback with converted receiver Daymond Patterson. Harris played the rest of the season in a reserve role at nickelback.

After a stellar freshman season where he could practically do no wrong, Harris wasn't exactly thrilled about losing his starting spot and switching positions.

"Of course, I was pretty upset and pretty mad," Harris said, "but the coaches know what's best for you. You got to trust what the coaches have for you. I've been trusting them and been doing what they've been telling me to do and working myself back in the mix."

Despite his struggles last season, Harris stayed on track. He continued with his daily routine and went to church. He called home regularly and spoke to his mom for support. And he never lost hope.

"It was something I had to persevere through," Harris said.

It may have taken a while, but Harris feels on top of the world again. All that struggle, all that adversity, and all that pain has made him a better player and person.

"I never would have thought that would be God's plan for me," Harris said. "That was just my plan that I'm going to persevere and have faith through it. I'm just blessed to be back on the field playing football."

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