Little running back coming up big for Green Bay

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 07, 2013
DuJuan Harris wasn't much of a car salesman. Didn't sell a single one, in fact, in the week he was working at a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealership in Jacksonville, Fla. ''I came close a few times,'' he said. ''I don't want to say I was nervous, but people would ask me about the cars and I didn't know much about it. I was just like, `Man, I'm not going to sell the cars.''' That's OK. As the Green Bay Packers have discovered - and the rest of the NFL is quickly learning - the pint-sized running back is far better suited for a job in the NFL. Elevated from the practice squad Dec. 1, Harris' speed, elusiveness and surprising power have helped give the Packers the consistent run game they've been trying to find all season. And after catching a team-high five passes Saturday night, Harris also gives Aaron Rodgers yet another option in what was already the NFC's deepest receiving game. The Packers (12-5) play at San Francisco (11-4-1) on Saturday in an NFC divisional game. ''He's kind of a Transformer,'' Rodgers said last week. ''There's more than meets the eye with DuJuan. He's a very tough guy. He's got great athleticism, agility; he makes some great jump cuts. ... He's done some nice things for us. ''You have to give him a lot of credit,'' Rodgers added. ''He's learned the offense the last few weeks and studied, obviously, and the package for him is just going to continue to grow.'' Signed by Jacksonville last season as an undrafted free agent out of Troy, Harris spent most of 2011 on the Jaguars' practice squad. He played his way onto the active roster by the end of the season, running for 42 yards on nine carries in Jacksonville's last five games. After the Jaguars cut Harris at the end of training camp, he was picked up by Pittsburgh. But he was with the Steelers only four days before being cut again, and he went back to Jacksonville to wait for his next opportunity. ''I was just working out, staying in shape and pretty much just chilling,'' Harris said. As the weeks passed and his phone stayed noticeably silent, Harris decided he needed to do something else. A friend had connections at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and got Harris an interview. It was clear immediately that wasn't going to be a good fit. ''They asked me if I would consider cutting my hair,'' said Harris, whose dreadlocks reach all the way to the middle of his back. ''I was like, `No, I know my career in football is not done.''' Another friend put him in touch with the Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealership, which has hired a few other NFL players. When they told Harris they needed him to take a drug test, he laughed. ''I was like, `Really, I have to go take a (urine) test? I'm clean. I don't smoke or none of that. I'm clean. I've got to be clean to do workouts for the NFL,''' Harris said. ''But to get a job in the real world, you have to do all of that other stuff. So, I did it.'' He put on a shirt and tie every day, too. ''I was never used to coming to work in a shirt and tie unless it's for game day,'' he said. ''I enjoyed it.'' After a week, though, Harris got a call from the Packers. He was signed to the practice squad Oct. 24. ''I felt like it was a test of my faith and I kept faith. When I got signed, I knew it was time to stay,'' he said. ''I had to come in and get to work and do whatever I had to stay.'' By the end of his first week in Green Bay, the Packers knew they had a keeper. Though Harris is only 5-foot-8, he packs the power of a lineman. Listed at 208 pounds, his arms are massive and his legs even bigger. Combine that with his speed and elusiveness, and the Packers' defensive players found themselves clutching air any time they tried to bring Harris down. ''He was tough to tackle in open space, one on one,'' said Alex Van Pelt, Green Bay's running backs coach. ''After about the first two or three practices, you start to hear little mumblings in the back, `Oh, this guy's got a little something to him.' It was our job to get him up to speed within the system to get him out there on the field.'' And fast, considering the struggles the Packers have had on the ground. With Rodgers at quarterback and a laundry list of targets, Green Bay is assured of having one of the NFL's most potent passing games. But teams need balance, and the Packers didn't have anything close to it the first half of the season. They cracked the 100-yard rushing mark just three times in the first eight games, and were averaging about 3.7 yards per carry. They had two touchdowns - count `em, two - on the ground through the first 11 games. Since Dec. 2, however, the Packers are averaging 112 yards rushing per game. They've scored nine touchdowns on the ground, including two in Saturday's wild-card victory over Minnesota. ''(Opponents) have a little bit to do with it, DuJuan Harris has something to do with it,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the improvement. ''I'm excited about what he's given us.'' Though Harris is only rushing for about 40 yards per game, he's averaging 4 yards a carry. That's not Adrian Peterson-like production, but it's enough to force defenses to not load up in the secondary. He's also been a brute in pass protection, and has sure enough hands that Rodgers didn't hesitate to go to him. ''He's doing a good job and we're pretty extensive with what we ask our backs to do in pass protection,'' McCarthy said. ''I'm very pleased and impressed with his growth when his opportunity came so late in the year and what he's been able to do over the last three to four weeks.'' While Harris appreciates the faith the Packers have in him, he doesn't feel as if he's made it. Not after where he was only a few months ago. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Eddie Lacy defends Mike McCarthy for weight loss comments

Red Sox nearly had serious catcher emergency in loss to Tigers

Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson ineligible for season

Roger Federer will miss Olympics, U.S. Open with knee injury

Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye releases first statement following car crash

Report: Brock Osweiler could have made more money staying with Broncos

Andrew Luck: Feels `as good as I've ever felt` for training camp

Amar'e Stoudemire announces retirement after signing one-day contract with Knicks

Report: Gregory failed multiple drug tests since suspension

Olympian Abby Johnston: Worst thing about Olympic village is no Pokemon

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

Report: Paul Pierce to return to Clippers

Jimbo Fisher: You come to FSU to win national championships

Andre Johnson worked out for Tennessee Titans

Shattenkirk for Krejci trade rumor still floating around

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies link to C.T.E.

Michael Vick: Cam Newton can’t beat me in 40-yard dash

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

Odell Beckham Jr. says Giants will play in Super Bowl LI

Iowa researchers say they can optimize Monday Night Football ratings with scheduling

Terrelle Pryor can visit Ohio State as five-year ban comes to a close

Rudy Gay admits to having ‘no idea’ about what the Kings are doing

NFL 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 Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. 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

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

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