Anthony Harris went undrafted, likely due to shoulder surgery that didn’t allow him to play in any postseason all-star games or participate in the NFL Scouting Combine or pro days.
In fact, as the Minnesota Vikings kicked off their rookie minicamp this weekend, Harris remained sidelined but watching to gain all the knowledge he could so he is mentally ready when he is physically able. Former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was his idol because of his mental game.
“Growing up I watched Ed Reed a lot for the Ravens,” Harris said. “He had a high football IQ, very athletic, rangy guy. Made a lot of plays on the ball, whether it was interceptions or forced fumbles. He was pretty much always in the right position.”
The same might be said for the versatile Harris during his three years of starting for the Virginia Cavaliers. He was both productive and versatile.
In starting 35 of the 49 games he played, 12 of those starts came at free safety and 23 at strong safety, amassing a combined 289 tackles, six for losses, two sacks, 19 passes defensed, 11 interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also blocked a pair of punts.
“I like to think I have some versatility to me where I can add on in different areas. That’s something we’ll have to check on in the future,” Harris said. “(A self-scouting report) would just probably say overall a well-rounded player, athletically and mentally as well.”
Harris said he was responsible for working with his middle linebackers at Virginia to make the defensive calls “and pretty much running the defense for the defensive coordinator.”
“Communicating and getting guys lined up,” he said. “Being able to recognize the things that we went over in practice and the film room and being able to execute whatever the defensive coordinator and special teams coach asks of me.”
He called Virginia’s defense “pretty sophisticated” and sees some carryover to the Vikings when it comes to defensive concepts. The terminology is different, however, making it doubly important that Harris was getting so-called mental reps from the sidelines over the weekend.
When the draft ended, Harris was still available. But with the Vikings expressing interest in him at several points in the predraft process, it made sense for him join them as an undrafted rookie, despite interest from other teams.
The Vikings had him in for their “top-30” predraft visit and talked to him previously at the Combine even though he couldn’t participate because of his shoulder. Those meetings were getting-to-know-you sessions with football talk and a film session worked in.
“It’s a great coaching staff. I visited. The visit went really well,” he said. “Coach (Mike) Zimmer is a great guy, really coaches guys up. I felt like I fit well as far as schemes. That pretty much factored into making a decision.”
Those visits gave him a sense that the Vikings were interested and had a “curiosity” about him, he said. It didn’t hurt that the Vikings’ safety spot opposite Harrison Smith is unsettled and there for the taking between a handful of candidates.
“Yeah, you always try to look for an opportunity where you can come in and be a contributor to the team,” he said, “and I felt like I can do that here and I’m just looking forward to doing it.”
Undrafted Harris wants to model Ed Reed
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