Vikings blood, Vikings interest

The Vikings were one of a few NFL teams to attend the pro day for a small-school wide receiver that might not make the draft grade but has an interesting Vikings background, as well as other strong bloodlines in the family.

JaRon Harris grew up a fan of the Green Bay Packers, needling his mother whenever the Packers would beat the Vikings. That statement gets even more interesting considering the fact that the JaRon's father, Ron, was an 11th-round draft pick of the Vikings in 1978.

Thirty-one years after drafting Ron Harris, a running back that played at Colorado State, the Vikings were one of several teams that worked out JaRon Harris, a wide receiver that played at South Dakota State.

"He's a big influence," JaRon said of father Ron in an interview with Packer Report's Bill Huber. "I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was a running back, so we were different positions obviously, but he just said be great at it and be the best you can be. Hopefully, I showed that enough to get to the next level.

"He helped me pick out my agent and has just been encouraging me to work out a lot and do my drills. He's just telling me, ‘This is it. This is your profession. You've got to treat it like a job.' That's what I've been doing. I've been preparing for my future and my family."

Ron spent a part of NFL preseasons with the Vikings and Bears before heading north to play for Ottawa and Winnipeg for a few years.

But there is a relative of JaRon's that had a pretty decent NFL career. JaRon's second cousin is Jerry Rice, arguably the best receiver to ever play in the NFL with 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns over his 20-year career. Harris has never met Rice – although they have communicated via letters and Harris met Rice's sisters at family reunions – but their skills would seem to be different. Rice was known for his ability to get yards after the catch; so far, Harris is known mostly for his speed.

At South Dakota State's pro day, where he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash on a rubber track (which could convert upward a tenth of a second or more for some NFL teams because of the fast surface), Harris attracted representatives from three NFL teams – the Vikings, Bears and Cowboys. The Packers cancelled their attendance, and he has received encouraging interest from the Colts as well after visiting Indianapolis.

With the draft since shortened to seven rounds from the 12 it was back in 1978, JaRon isn't sure he'll be drafted, but he is confident in his game and scouts' ability to see his skills on tape, despite playing at a Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) school.

"It's still Division I, you know? That's what I'd say, even though it was I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision)," he said. "I think it was pretty good competition. They can judge however they want. They can watch film and see how I did and judge for themselves."

While his skills might not mirror that of Rice, he did admit to emulating him.

"Of course. One of the greatest ever. Every receiver models their game after someone like that. I definitely enjoyed watching him growing up," said Harris, who mentioned another potential Hall of Fame player that he enjoyed watching while growing up – former Vikings receiver Cris Carter.

Harris said the strength of his game is "running crisp routes and not having a whole lot of drops" and said he is improving in the blocking aspect of the job.

Within two weeks, Harris should have a job somewhere in the league. If it's with the Vikings, he'll be following in his father's footsteps … and probably receiving a return razzing and plenty of encouragement from his mother.

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