By: Barry Barnes, Founder
At first glance, Los Angeles Chargers rookie linebacker Nigel Harris appears to be in the wrong position, since he looks like a wide receiver. However, when he gets his hands on an opponent, his position is no longer in question.
“I am considered an undersized backer, but I understand my style of play,” Harris explains. “So, as long as I continue to succeed, the weight shouldn’t be an issue to compete at the highest level of play and maximize my abilities to make plays.”
Effective on the turf, Harris is able to balance his slender 6-2, 230-pounds with the right speed and technique.
Harris’ approach to the game of football may appear to be different for a linebacker because he is not an in-your-face emotional defender. He greets with a smile, but hits hard with a giggle.
Harris is an under the radar talent, and in the right system, he can be explosive.
After leading his South Florida team in tackles for losses (9.5) and finishing second in tackles (78), Harris, along with his family and others, figured the NFL Regional Combine could be the environment where his talent would be recognized.
“There are a few factors that motivate me when it comes to playing on the field,” says Harris humbly. “It’s mostly my family and loved ones. I enjoy making people proud of my actions on and off the field.”
Harris attended the Houston-held RC session in February. Clearly, many of the NFL hopefuls who participated in the workout were on the edge, while Harris viewed the trial as a joyous occasion.
However, scouts and evaluators were curious to witness what the thin linebacker who wore bifocal with a gold streak in his hair can accomplish. What they witnessed was a one of a kind talent.
When asked further about his playing weight, Harris welcomes the question.
“I could easily put on weight…but I don’t want to because it could hinder my abilities in dropping into coverage, running with the receivers, my explosion, speed and things like that,” Harris stated following his workout. “At this weight, I’m in control and it always worked for me.”
And being in control is an understatement. Harris is polished, fundamentally sound, quick and strong. He has good hands and a lot of confidence.
Harris’ energetic personality comes from two sources, the support of his family and the knowledge he can flat out play at the highest level of professional football.
Succeeding at the NFL Regional Combine and his Pro Day at USF was the boost Harris needed.
And “it’s all paying off.”
“When I got the call from the Chargers, it was an amazing feeling,” Harris shares. “I was home with my family and it was just heart-warming seeing everyone happy. We just had a dinner together to celebrate. Nothing too crazy. We’re simple people.”
The Chargers witnessed how technically sound Harris is right from the start of rookie mini-camp. The Gainesville, Florida native wasted no time demonstrating his skill set when he jumped the route of a tight end and went to the house on the second day of training camp.
When Harris reflects on the first moments starting his rookie season as a Charger, he relates being “thankful for the opportunity every day and that wearing the Charger logo felt surreal.”
“After a few practices in OTAs with the vets, running around with them, making plays and just being on the same field with them was when I realized that I am NFL caliber,” Harris admits. “It just felt like I fit right in.
The Chargers have a collection of hybrid linebackers with a combination of speed and aggression, and Harris has the potential to be the cream of the crop.
Harris joins three other standouts from the NFL Regional Combine platform in linebacker Jatavis Brown, quarterback Mike Bercovici and tight end Sean McGrath. In his rookie campaign, Brown led the Chargers in tackles last season with 79, including 3.5 sacks.
On a roster loaded with solid defensive standouts, Harris knows consistency is essential.
“Something I learned that’ll help me in training camp is to be consistent in what I do, always know that there is room to learn more and stay hungry to be the best,” Harris reveals.
The size factor for Harris is a thing of the past. No one will question his physique again now that he has proven himself by getting to the pro arena.
“For those who are going down a similar path that I went through, find something every day that will keep you motivated and remove any doubt by preparing yourself for the big day,” encourages Harris.
“Start with the end in mind and you will be successful whether it’s on or off the field.”