Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> JHS’ Harris signs deal with Chiefs

Leader sports editor

Former Jacksonville Red Devil Demetrius Harris ended the NFL regular season with a bang. The Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end caught his first career touchdown pass in the last game of the regular season, and four days later signed a three-year contract extension worth $6.3 million.

Two days after that, the Chiefs torched the Houston Texans 30-0 in the first round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

Harris is in his third year with the Chiefs and second as an active player. He was signed as an undrafted free agent after five years away from football, and joined the Kansas City practice squad his first season.

He made the team last year at the league minimum salary and played this season as a backup to starting tight end Travis Kelce, who has 80 receptions this season for 1,003 yards.

Harris was a two-sport standout at Jacksonville High School and was considered a bigger football prospect than basketball. When he failed to qualify academically for a Division I scholarship, he chose to pursue basketball.

He finished his college career as a two-year starting forward for Wisconsin-Milwaukee before the Chiefs asked him for a private workout.

Harris only caught seven passes for 74 yards this season, but the Chiefs have approached Harris’ early career as a work in progress from the beginning. His speed, hands and route-running ability were impressive, but he was nowhere strong enough to be an effective blocker in the NFL when he joined the organization.

It’s clear with last Friday’s contract, the team believes Harris is ready to fulfill their expectations and make their risk worthwhile.