Harris Brings Power to Backfield Battle

Louisiana-Lafayette's Alonzo Harris used his 237-pound frame to run for 3,300 yards and 44 touchdowns. He certainly fits the mold of what the Packers prefer in the backfield.

Photo by Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY

From Ryan Grant to Alex Green, from Cedric Benson to Eddie Lacy, the Green Bay Packers’ preference under coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson has been for big, bruising running backs.

Alonzo Harris definitely fits that mold.

Harris, an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette, measured in at 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds at pro day. His 3,330 career rushing yards were more crash than flash. He’s a Point A to Point B runner, never mind if there’s a defender or two in the way.

“He turns 2 (yards) into 4; he turns 4 into 6,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth told reporters before the 2014 season. “That’s what he brings to the table.”

With a 4.66 clocking in the 40-yard dash at pro day, Harris fell out of consideration in a draft deep at running back, specifically, and talent, generally. About seven or eight teams vied for his services after the draft, Harris said, and he narrowed it down to two solid opportunities. Green Bay has only two backs on its roster that have played an NFL snap. Dallas lost NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray in free agency and didn’t draft anyone to replace him.

So why Green Bay?

“I felt like this was the best opportunity for me,” Harris said on Saturday at the conclusion of the team’s rookie orientation camp. “With them being a zone scheme, as well – I came from a zone team in college so I know about zone. It’s not too unfamiliar. I feel like it’s a great opportunity.”

A look at Green Bay’s depth chart with agent Robert Sheets and his high school coach only confirmed that. He’ll be competing for the No. 3 spot with Rajion Neal, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee last year who spent training camp with the Packers and the second half of the season on their practice squad, and John Crockett, an undrafted rookie who starred for four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State.

“That’s true, that’s true. That’s another thing (in Green Bay’s favor),” Harris said. “I feel like me being here behind those two guys (Lacy and James Starks) would be a great opportunity to learn from two great players. I feel like if I keep in my nose in the book and learn from those guys, I’ll have a great opportunity.”

Harris was a model of consistency during his four seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette. He rushed for 700 yards (4.3 average) and eight touchdowns as a freshman, 881 yards (5.2 average) and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, 942 yards (4.7 average) and 14 touchdowns as a junior and 807 yards (4.7 average) and 12 touchdowns as a senior. In the process, he became the third runner in school history to eclipse 3,000 rushing yards and finished second with 44 rushing touchdowns.

To make an impact with Green Bay, Harris is going to have to show he’s a well-rounded player. He caught 29 passes during his four seasons.

“I dropped one pass these past two days,” Harris said. “It was my fault, I wasn’t framing it up and taking my time with it. I had my eyes upfield too early. That’s a rookie mistake. Pass blocking, I have no problem with that.”

For Harris, agreeing to a contract with the Packers was a “very emotional” experience. He said that when he was 6, his mother told him that he’d make it to the NFL. He got to Louisiana-Lafayette via Gadsden (Ala.) High School, where he topped 1,700 rushing yards as a senior. During his first collegiate game against Oklahoma State, he was on the receiving end of a hard hit that gave him a needed dose of humility. Since then, he said he’s worked hard and done “all the little things” to get him to this point.

“Nah, I have no doubt in my mind,” Harris said. “You can’t come here slacking. I come with my hard hat every day ready to work. I don’t think I’ll get cut but you have other people thinking the same thing, as well, so I have to bring it every day.”

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