On January 12th, 2014, with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter of the Denver Broncos Divisional playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, Chris Harris Jr. limped off the field, favoring his left knee.
The injury was suffered away from the play and without contact. The Broncos had been pitching a shut out to that point, but without Harris, the Chargers put up 17 fourth quarter points. His loss was immediately felt by the team, as the "No Fly Zone" opened up for frequent flyers.
Harris underwent surgery on February 6th, 2014 to repair his partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), under the hands of world-renowned surgeon, Dr. James Andrews. The surgery was completed without complication and so began Harris' tremendous road to recovery. A week after surgery, he was off of crutches.
From there, Harris’ mornings began at 7:30 a.m. at the Broncos Dove Valley headquarters. Five days a week, Harris spent five hours a day at the team’s facility rehabbing from his ACL injury. He never missed a day.
On September 7th, 2014, Harris, just 7 months removed from his surgery, made his return in time to start in the Broncos season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. It marked the only game of the season where Harris did not play the majority of defensive snaps, logging 39 snaps of a possible 76.
Harris finished the season as ProFootballFocus' top rated corner by a wide margin, allowing 46 receptions on 89 targets, for 356 yards, without allowing a single touchdown, or a 100-yard receiver. He was voted to his first Pro Bowl even though he was not part of the fans' top-10 vote getters among cornerbacks. Meaning, he received the honor based off of the players' and coaches' vote. Harris is also a near lock to receive All-Pro honors for his work this season.
Each year, the Ed Block Courage Award honors players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts, who was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian.
Recipients are selected by their teammates for exceptional courage, great character and inspiring effort. For Harris, it only took a torn ACL and 7 months, to become the best shutdown corner in the NFL. It's a journey he's been on since he came to Denver as an undrafted free agent, receiving a $2,000 signing bonus. Just a matter of weeks ago, he signed a 5-year, $42.5M contract extension. While Harris still has his detractors, he has exemplified what the Ed Block Courage Award is all about.
He is preceded by Knowshon Moreno, who won the award last season with a career year, following an injury sustained in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.