Harris takes Center Stage

Several college players spoke with the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday. No player had a more interesting story than Notre Dame offensive lineman Ryan Harris.

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  • Ryan Harris checked in at 6-4.5 and 305 pounds at the combine. The Notre Dame graduate announced that he will be represented by veteran NFL agent Eugene Parker.

    Harris is very interested in politics, the one time Cretin-Derham Hall star has aspirations of one day being the governor of his home state.

    "I think politics is a good avenue to affect peoples' lives for the good, and I believe in this country and the system of the government. It's something I think I would enjoy.

    "Football is my dream. Playing in the NFL is something I've worked for ever since I first started playing the game. This is my No. 1 dream. I've graduated college, and I'm pursuing my goal right now. Politics could be a close second."

    Former NFL assistant Charlie Weis has been a valuable asset to aspiring NFL players and Harris talked about his experiences with Weis.

    "Absolutely. Coach Weis brought a system that any player in the country would have been lucky to have. I was fortunate to play in his offense, and he surrounded himself with excellent coaches. I can't say enough about how thankful I am and how much I benefited from playing in Coach Weis' system."

    Harris has been the definition of durability during his career with the Fightin' Irish career playing every game during the last three years and 45 career starts.

    "I really take pride in that. Being an offensive lineman, you're going to get injured at some point. I wanted to make sure I was there for my teammates every game, and I brought consistent play to help us win."

    Harris had back surgery on July 27 and was in the starting lineup on opening day five weeks later.

    "I could have taken the year. I could have done all kinds of things. But it was important for me to play this last year and be a part of the team. I have no regrets about coming back and continuing that streak of playing every game."

    Harris like all the players at the combine face a battery of medical testing upon their arrival in Indianapolis.

    "Each team and their team of doctors has the right to look at you. Each team and their doctors will look at you. Anything you've had, and I'm talking about anything, they will X-ray it, they'll make sure they know anything about any slight injury."

    Harris suffered a severe back injury at Notre Dame, he says most teams were impressed that he was able to recover so quickly.

    "No, as a matter of fact every single team up to this point has been impressed I came back so fast and played the entire season."

    On the surgery: "I had surgery on my L-4 and L-5 discs. I had it on July 27 and started in our first game, I think it was Sept. 3.

    "It keeps you honest having teams do all the background checks, especially medical, too. You've got to be comfortable in your own skin. If you have something that doesn't match up, make sure you explain yourself and you'll be fine."

    Harris a converted Muslim broached the topic of religion and being a Muslim playing at a Catholic high school and then a Catholic University.

    "I was Muslim when I was in high school, and that was an all-Catholic high school. I'm the only Muslim in my family. I converted when I was in the eighth grade. Faith is something that can be universal. Yeah, there are some different things, but when you get down to it, there are very slight differences and a lot of the same morals and principles transcend all religions, whether you're Christian, Jewish or Muslim.

    "It's been great at Notre Dame, being in a community that understands that faith affects your everyday life. Too much is made of the slight differences in faith, and I've been so happy and lucky to be around fellow Christians and others who attend the University of Notre Dame."

    During his career at Notre Dame, Harris has faced a number of great pass rushers. He does remember a few who stood out above the others.

    "Mathias Kiwanuka was pretty good when he was at Boston College. Anthony Spencer was also pretty good this last year at Purdue. Every year there are defensive ends who are very good, but those two stood out in my four years."

    Harris is a versatile prospect who has played both right and left tackle at Notre Dame. Like most young players, Harris tried to pattern his play after a few players he has seen in the NFL.

    "Every game I watch left tackles. I try and watch every game Chris Samuels and Walter Jones play. Those are some great tackles. But I like (Alan) Faneca the guard (from Pittsburgh) and I like all offensive linemen. There's nothing better than to see somebody getting after it on Sunday or Monday night. I watch every position."

    Harris received some simple advice prior to the combine.

    "Anybody I knew from the Combine, current players, past players, they just said, ‘Nothing we can say will prepare you for what you're about to do. Just enjoy it and relax.''

    One NFL team that Harris mentioned specifically that he has spoken to was the Kansas City Chiefs, but during the Senior Bowl he met with others.

    "I spoke a little bit with their offensive coordinator (Mike Solari) at the Senior Bowl. We haven't had our interviews. They start (Thursday) night. They had just come off their playoff game, so I suspect they hadn't gotten started (with the draft). Kansas City would be a great place to play. Any team that is looking for an offensive lineman, I'm very eager to meet and excited to meet.

    "The Falcons, the Vikings, the Eagles, Denver … every team had their scouts there and we were interviewed every night."

    Cretin-Derham has produced a number of great athletes such as Steve Walsh, Chris Weinke and Joe Maurer what was it like playing there?

    "Scott Stephenson (center) from Iowa State went to Cretin, and the first thing we did when we came here was say hello and laugh about how we can have two guys from the same high school here.

    "It's truly amazing and phenomenal the program our coaches put together. To consider the success … Matt Birk, Joe Maurer, Chris Weinke, Steve Walsh, that's a lot of good players that came out of our high school."

    Harris was quick to point out that Minnesota Vikings Pro-Bowl center Matt Birk and how he has helped him.

    "I know him personally, but I try to stay out of his hair as much as I can, because being from Minnesota, I'm sure he has a lot of people around him, but he's been overly welcoming. He's given me his phone numbers and we use a lot of the same resources in the Twin Cities. If by chance, I end up up with the Vikings, he would be someone who would mentor me and take me under his wing."

    There have been some questions regarding Harris' size, but he has not allowed that to deter him in his quest to land in the NFL.

    "I am my height, I am my current weight. I always want to get stronger. There's a lot to say for how you play vs. how you look. A lot of teams know it. A lot of successful players in the NFL were passed up because maybe they didn't fit the certain profile, but they still had a successful career. I am what I am and I'm here to showcase my abilities.

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