Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 6/4/13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) From the moment that Demetrius Harris arrived on campus, UW-Milwaukee basketball coach Rob Jeter had this feeling in the pit of his stomach that Harris was playing the wrong sport. Sure, he'd been a decent high school player, even though he'd only played a couple of seasons of organized basketball. Harris fared well enough at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo., to warrant a scholarship offer from Jeter to play Division I basketball for the Panthers. But when Jeter watched Harris, with his soft hands and prototypical size and uncanny ability to get up and down the court, he couldn't help but think maybe he'd be better off playing football. "We always looked at him like a football player trying to play basketball," Jeter said. "We even talked to him about that when we recruited him. We knew he was a pretty talented football player." Well, Harris is getting his chance to showcase that talent. After nearly signing with an agent and playing hoops overseas, Harris has spent the past month with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he's trying to follow in the footsteps of ex-basketball standouts such as Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham by becoming a tight end in the NFL. "It's been a blessing," Harris said before the start of this week's minicamp. "My coaches at UW-Milwaukee helped me get this opportunity and now I'm just trying to run with it." Already, Harris has made an impression on Chiefs coach Andy Reid. He was asked recently who had caught his eye among undrafted free agents, and without prompting, the first name that Reid mentioned was Harris. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound tight end has rapidly moved up the depth chart, quickly becoming one of the Chiefs quarterbacks' favorite targets. "He's just gotten better and better every day," Reid said. "You see him out here making plays. I'm proud of him for the way he's worked. That's not an easy transition." It's a transition that Jeter knew his former forward could make, though. His uncle, Tony Jeter, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his father, Bob Jeter, was an All-Pro defensive back for the Green Bay Packers. Football happens to be in his blood. So in the quintessential right-place, right-time scenario, the Jeter family happened to know a former Packers linebacker named John Dorsey who had been hired just this spring as the Chiefs' general manager. Dorsey liked what he saw of Harris on film and arranged a private workout for him, and the numbers that he put up in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump raised eyebrows. Word got out and Harris ended up working out for several teams around the league. He ended up signing with the Chiefs in part because Dorsey was the first to give him a shot. "The kid only worked out for seven days, but he runs a 4.53 40, his vertical was off the charts, and it was like, Wow, the kid really wants it,'" Jeter said. "We were in contact with him daily. For most people, the opportunity never comes, so we knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime for him." It's not that football is entirely foreign to him. He actually played more football than basketball in high school, and wanted to play football for Arkansas State. When he didn't qualify academically, he headed to junior college, and still intended to play football once he finished. But somewhere along the way, his passion for basketball took over, and Harris was willing to shelve his football potential for a chance to play hoops. He averaged about 10 points and five rebounds as a senior, but showed the kind of toughness it takes to play football when he came down with the flu before his final game. Harris rushed to the hospital that morning, received an IV that gave him just enough strength to get on the court, and then played 26 minutes in a loss to Green Bay in the conference tournament. "The best way to describe him is he's just oozing with potential to be something really good," Jeter said. "I think he has all the tools to play football. Now it's just a matter of focusing." Things haven't gone perfectly, of course. Harris has had to relearn just about everything that comes with football, right down to basic blocking and route-running techniques, all while digesting an NFL playbook. And early on, he admitted that he questioned whether he would ever be able to handle it. "My confidence level was down and I was frustrated because I wasn't doing well, and I was messing up the plays, but the coaches keep telling me to just let everything go," Harris said, "and if I mess something up, do it at full speed. So that's what I've been doing." Make no mistake: Harris has a long way to go to make the team. The Chiefs signed free agent Anthony Fasano and drafted Travis Kelce in the third round this offseason, and they still have Tony Moeaki under contract. But there's always a place available on the practice squad, which would give Harris time to keep developing his newfound craft. "This level is real tough," Harris said, "but I came in here thinking like, I'm not ready,' so that's what is slowing me down. I came in thinking, I'm not ready, so I'm just going to lay back and sit.' But now, I think if I just let everything go and just play, I can be really good."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

John Elway confirms Broncos were interested in Tony Romo

Mike Tomlin: 'Consequences' for Steelers in Bell's absence

Clay Helton says OJ Simpson would not be allowed at USC practice

It’s ‘obvious’ Panthers have ‘big plans’ for Christian McCaffrey?

Kyle Shanahan claps back at Matt Ryan

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

The Astros are going from really good to possibly great

John Harbaugh: Ravens exploring signing Kaepernick

Bryce Harper blames ejection, meltdown on pregame playlist

Defining Darvish: Is a deadline deal looming?

Kyrie Irving reportedly ignoring phone calls from Cavs

Congress demands NFL pays $18 million bill

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

Three Up, Three Down: Adrian Beltre is a national treasure

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

Box Score 7/27: USMNT brings home the Gold Cup

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

Every MLB team's best and worst deadline trade from the last 25 years

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

Box Score 7/26: Nothing but grand slams

The most memorable moments from the class of 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

BIG3 Week 6: Should we begin the MVP discussion as we head to Dallas?

The 'Old Tom Brady is still the Ol' Tom Brady' quiz

The 10 craziest NFL offseason stories

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker