When Connor Harris was told he’d received an invitation to be one of 19 college players to attend the Chiefs’ local pro day, which was held on April 7, he was thrilled.
Harris, however, was also a bit surprised when he looked at the itinery and saw he was listed as a fullback and linebacker.
Now, this wasn’t the first time NFL teams have broached the topic with the former Blue Springs South star, a four-year starter at inside linebacker for Lindenwood who is coming off a senior campaign in which he racked up 138 tackles and was chosen the national Division II defensive player of the year.
At the Senior Bowl in January, a few teams had already talked to the 5-foot-11, 242-pounder about the possibility, presumably because they are worried his lack of arm length – he has 30 1/8-inch arms – could make shedding blocks at the NFL level difficult.
However, Harris strictly worked out with the linebackers at the Combine in February, and until he received the Chiefs’ pro day invitation, he hadn’t – at least to that point – been asked to work out at fullback for anyone.
“It kind of surprised me a little bit that they wanted to work me out as a fullback, just because I hadn’t been working on it,” Harris said. “But I was up for the challenge, and I just went in and had some fun with it.”
So when April 7 finally rolled around, Harris – who also served as a Wildcat quarterback at times in his college career and rushed for a career-high 188 yards in one game in 2014 – ran some routes with the running backs and did a few bag drills. Then he went with the linebackers and did some bag drills, along with some coverage drops.
For a player who once led Blue Springs South to the Missouri Class 6 state title by excelling at four different positions – quarterback, safety, kicker and punter – it was a throwback to his high school days.
“It went really quick, but it went really well,” Harris said of his experience at the Chiefs’ local pro day. “I was very happy with it, and I got some good feedback from the coaches.”
Harris said he specifically heard some good things from running backs coach Eric Bieniemy.
“He was impressed and said I did really well; he didn’t know I played linebacker too and that I never played fullback,” Harris said.
Harris also said he had a nice conversation with special teams coach Dave Toub, who told him he’d seen Harris’ film and also liked what he saw.
“Him saying he believes I can make it and make a team off special teams was cool to hear,” Harris said.
In a perfect world, Harris – whose instincts at inside linebacker are roundly regarded as “natural” – would stay at the position that has been his home for the last several years. But this isn’t a perfect world, he said, and he insisted he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep his NFL dream alive, including switching positions.
“I want to play in the NFL, and if that means I’m playing fullback or linebacker or whatever, I’m down to do that,” Harris said. “I don’t have a preference.”
But don’t be mistaken; Harris is confident he can make it in the NFL as an inside linebacker. While he understands the concerns some have about his arm length, he’s just using it as motivation.
“At times, honestly, it’s been frustrating, especially when you think that I’m being knocked for my length and height, which I can’t control,” Harris said. “But at the same time, that’s just part of this process.”
A process that Harris hopes will end with some team selecting him in the draft. The chances of it seem positive enough, as some – like Nolan Nawrocki or CBS – predicting he will be a fourth-round pick.
But no matter what happens when the draft starts on April 27, Harris knows that his fate – just like it was as a high school senior, when he received zero Division I offers – will ultimately remain in his own hands.
“I’m just trying to prove to myself that I can accomplish my dreams, no matter how big they might be or crazy they might seem at the time,” Harris said. “I want to prove that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can accomplish whatever you want.”
2017 NFL Draft
Round 1: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27
Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. Friday, April 28
Rounds 4-7: 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29
2017 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: FULLBACKS
Chiefs’ need at this position: Low. Anthony Sherman is entering the final year of his deal, but he took a paycut to stay a month ago and should make the roster. Sherman, 28, is a core special teams player and someone who could probably stand to be used more on offense, so it would make sense if he returns beyond this year. Someone like Virginia Tech’s Sam Rogers looks like a nice fit for the Chiefs, but if they don’t select him expect the Chiefs to bring in an undrafted rookie free agent — or some young player — to potentially groom for down the road in case Sherman isn’t a Chief beyond 2017.
WR: Story/rankings, to come
TE: Story/rankings, to come
OL: Story/rankings, to come
DL: Story/rankings, to come
EDGE: Story/rankings, to come
ILB: Story/rankings, to come
CB: Story/rankings, to come
S: Story/rankings, to come