Harris says he's ready for a new challenge

Oklahoma defensive tackle Tommie Harris talks to OUInsider.com in-depth about his decision to enter the NFL draft and his career at Oklahoma.

All-American and Lombardi Award winner Tommie Harris has decided to take his talents to the NFL. I got to know Tommie during his senior year at Ellison High School in Killeen, Texas, and I have enjoyed covering him at OU. Tommie has always been very kind to this reporter and he was once again today as he talked to OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Tommie, congratulations on your decision to go pro, and I will miss covering you at OU. Best of luck to you in the future.

TH: "Thanks a lot, and I am going to miss you and the rest of the Sooner faithful as well. God Bless you also."

JH: Tommie, God Bless you as well. You have let me know most of the year you were leaning towards this decision, but did the decision become more difficult the last couple of days?

TH: "Yeah, it became even tougher after we lost in the Sugar Bowl. I was really banking on us winning that game and that would have been great to leave with a Big 12 title and a National Championship. It didn't turn out that way, but we weighed our pros and cons and the option to leave overcame the option to stay."

JH: What were the main reasons why you have decided to leave?

TH: "One of the main reasons is that everything is not promised to you. When you get opportunities like that you have to jump at it. Anything can happen tomorrow. If I did come back the pros and cons to leave were more positive than to stay in my opinion. I have already achieved a lot at the University of Oklahoma in three years and I feel I am ready for a new challenge. I feel I am willing to accept this challenge. I am looking forward to this and I am just anxious about it."

JH: I know that you spoke with Head Coach Bob Stoops and your defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp on Friday. Coach Stoops was very adamant about the fact that based on the information that you got from the NFL, that if you were not going to go in the top five that you should come back. Did he tell you that as well?

TH: "Right, Coach Stoops and Coach Shipp flew in here on Friday and I had watched how a lot of players had gone behind their coaches back and just declared without taking to them first. I sat down with Coach Stoops and Coach Shipp and we weighed the pros and cons, and everything looked positive. It is difficult to leave the university, because I have great teammates and they are tough to leave. The first thing that I did was ask them if it was alright if I left and asked them what I should do. A lot of them told gave me the positive sign to go. I am just looking forward to this challenge. Coach Stoops sat there and looked everything over and said that everything looked alright as long as I take care of my business in the forty time and the other test things (at the NFL combine)."

JH: Hasn't your forty time always been awesome? You are incredibly fast for a big man?

TH: "I hope so, but we will see how I do at the combine."

JH: Aren't you a 4.6 guy at close to 300 pounds?

TH: "It is hard to say, but I think I am a little faster than that. I think I can get my time in the 4.5 range."

JH: What have you heard from the NFL?

TH: "I have heard form the NFL that I will get drafted between the top ten or the top five picks. I really don't bank on that as I want to make myself the most marketable athlete on the draft board. I want to answer all their questions, and I want go in there and show them my top physical ability. And mentally, I want to prove to them that I can sustain staying on that level. I know I have to grow up as a man, and I know that I have to jump into the business world. I need to take a tough mental attitude into that world and be ready to do my best."

JH: When you look back at your days at OU, what will you remember most?

TH: "I will also think about the great fan base at the University of Oklahoma. I will always think about the great coaching staff, great teammates that I love dearly and about a place that allowed me to be as successful as it was promised to me during recruiting. I was promised that all this great stuff would happen and all of that has come to pass. OU is just a great school and Norman is a wonderful place to live. I could see myself in the future raising a family in Norman. The whole thing about the University of Oklahoma is a positive outlook in my life."

JH: You mentioned your teammates. I know you have 130 friends on that team, don't you?

TH: "All of my teammates are my friends and I have a close relationship with all of them. I made sure that I went in and acquired the blessing of my teammates first before I made this decision, because if the majority wanted me to stay then I would have stayed. Those guys are like my brothers and I would do anything for them. They all feel that this is a rare chance for me and that you get very few of these kind of chances in life. They told me to jump at it."

JH: Talk about your relationship with Coach Shipp.

TH: "Coach Shipp has been a wonderful coach and a guy that has been there for me all the way. A guy that came into my living room during recruiting and promised me so many things, and they came to pass. I take that back, because he didn't promise me, but he said that the University of Oklahoma will give you the opportunity to achieve all these goals. And that was true, because OU did open the window to all the things that I have achieved. It has been great just to be able to do that.

"Coach Shipp is a guy that has strengthened me mentally, more than physically. He has helped me mentally when the game is at its last minute and you keep on playing hard no matter what the score. You always play hard and you learn to practice when you are hurt. Those are the things that Coach Shipp taught me the most on the collegiate level."

JH: Man, I hope you get a coach in the pros that is in as good a shape as Coach Shipp, because I know that Coach Shipp always led by example by his own work ethic?

TH: "Coach Shipp always had a competitive edge and said that he could do everything that we could do and that anything that you could do he could do better. That is what you love about him. He is a guy who every time you put your hand in the dirt you are willing to do everything that you can to impress him, even if that means you get a laugh out of him and just enjoy it."

JH: What will you do now? Do you have to go through some testing for the NFL?

TH: "No, I don't have to go through any tests. I just have to get ready for the combine."

JH: Will you get ready for the combine at OU or elsewhere?

TH: "I don't know yet. I am still weighting my options at this time."

JH: Have you hired an agent yet and if so who?

TH: "Yes, I have. I hired CSMG."

JH: Growing up did you root for any NFL team?

TH: "I really didn't have a favorite NFL team. I didn't pay attention to the pro game that much. I guess I would say Tampa Bay, because I have always liked how they play defense."

JH: "Wouldn't it be great if you could get drafted by Dallas and play with Roy Williams again?

TH: "That would be great. That would be cool."

JH: What would you say to other top defensive tackle recruits that are considering OU?

TH: "I would tell them that they can achieve their goals and they can reach the best of their abilities at OU. If you have great dreams for college football you can reach all of these dreams at OU. Coach Shipp is a great defensive tackle coach and he will push you, love you, be tough on you, but always treat you right. At OU, you will play for national championships and conference championships and you will play in the best atmosphere in college football. Nothing beats the great fans and the game atmosphere inside the stadium at OU."

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