Tight end Demetrius Harris confident he can catch on with the Chiefs

07/27/2014 5:27 PM

07/27/2014 8:59 PM

Sean McGrath’s retirement probably means Demetrius Harris will land a spot on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster for the season opener Sept. 7 against Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium.

Harris — a raw but intriguing 6-foot-7 prospect, who played basketball in college — might have beat out McGrath anyway.

Of course, removing McGrath from the equation simplifies the decision for head coach Andy Reid in searching for a backup tight end to Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce.

“I’ve got confidence I’m going to make it,” said Harris, whose main competition now is four-year veteran Richard Gordon. “I don’t want to just assume I’m going to make it. I know I’ve still got to work hard to make it.”

Still, Harris — who has been targeted regularly and made the occasional tough catch during the first week of practice — wasn’t necessarily happy to see McGrath go.

“I wouldn’t say it was a relief,” Harris said. “It hurt, because Sean was a friend. The whole tight-end crew was tight. It’s sad to see him go, so that part hurt, but now I’ve got to move forward.”

Harris spent last season on the practice squad and remains something of a developmental project.

He played wide receiver and safety in high school before signing with Arkansas State, but wound up at Mineral Area College, a junior college in Park Hills, Mo., after failing to qualify academically for NCAA Division I.

From there, Harris played basketball only at Milwaukee-Wisconsin, where he averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds as a senior.

Harris was set to play basketball overseas before NFL teams came calling. He also met with Ravens and Cowboys before signing with the Chiefs last summer.

The biggest adjustment for Harris from college basketball to professional football has been learning how to block — both the physical and technical intricacies.

“I’m working the hardest on blocking — pass block, run block, just basic foot and hand placement,” Harris said. “That’s my No. 1 rule right now is trying to become a good blocker, a great blocker.”

Basketball will always be in his blood a little, but it’s no longer his primary passion.

“I miss basketball, but I’m strictly football,” Harris said. “I go shoot around every once in a while, but I’m strictly football.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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