Texas receiver John Harris had a breakout season in 2014.
After making just nine catches in three disappointing and injury-plagued seasons (2011-2013), Harris led the Longhorns with 68 catches for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns as a fifth-year senior. He is just the sixth player in school history to top 1,000 receiving yards.
Harris credits the coaching change, from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong, as being a key to his development.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder has his sights set on going from an unlikely senior star at Texas to the NFL.
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Harris will play in the College Gridiron Showcase all-star game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Maverick Stadium. He has talked to scouts from 22 NFL teams.
He talked to the Star-Telegram about his struggles at Texas and hopes for the future.
What do you hope to gain out of playing this game? To go out and show scouts I can play at the next level. To go out and show them a little more of my ability and build off what I had to going this season.
What are your thoughts on your breakout senior season after making little impact for the first three years? I can’t believe it. It’s a blessing that I’m here. I’m just excited to be in the position that I’m in. I’m just enjoying the ride.
How close were you to going back to school for another year via a medical redshirt? If I could have gone back, I would have. But it wasn’t a possibility. You have to have two years of injury to go back and I only had one.
How do you explain your early struggles at Texas? Just ups and downs. A lot of adversity a kid my age shouldn’t have to deal with. But I had to deal with it and it taught me a lot. I grew up and I learned from it.
What type of adversity? Just being confident and learning how to go through life with struggles. You have to learn how to do stuff on your own. You can’t depend on your parents to always be there for you and do stuff for you. It was a lot of adversity to keep my head and go to class every day, go to the practice every day and do the right thing. I had learn and build on it at the same time.
Were there any injuries issues that held you back? Just the one foot injury I had my redshirt year. I feel if I wouldn’t have had that injury, things might have gone different. But I’m kind of glad I did. I got to learn the hard way about life.
You had a strong spring and fall camp as a junior and people thought you would break out then, but didn’t. Why? I don’t know why. I went out there and made plays. I caught the first touchdown of the season that year. But I really don’t know what happened. It just didn’t translate. I played on special teams.
How much did the coaching changing impact your development in 2014? It helped it a lot. Coach Strong and [former receivers coach] Les Koenning did a great job with me. That whole staff did a great job. They were always motivating me. They pushed me. They challenged me. They challenged me as a person and as a player. What did I want to become when I left Texas? I think that was the biggest difference for me.”
Whom do you pattern your game after? I’m a big receiver, so Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall.
What do you need to work on to make the NFL? Footwork and getting out of my routes is a big deal with me. I think that is something I can do with timing.
You think the adversity in college and experience on special teams could help you make an NFL roster? Exactly. That’s what I think about. Even though I got hurt and had to deal with all that, it benefited me in a way that I had to play specials to get back to a point where I could become a starter. That’s something guys have to do in the league. I played all special teams. It’s going to help me in the long run.
Do you think NFL teams will get a hungry player? I’m hungry. That’s what they are going to get from me. I still have a lot left to prove. A lot of people still don’t think I can play at the next level. I still want to prove that to myself and to a lot of other people that throughout everything I still made it and I still lived out my dream.
Was there a time you almost gave up on football? There were a lot of times I wanted to quit football. There were times I wanted to transfer. A lot of my friends at Texas and my family were my support system, and they kept me there and fought for me. They kept my head in the right place.
Did you think about quitting before last season? Yes, I did before the coaching change. I wasn’t happy. I was upset how things were going. I thought about quitting. At the end of the day, I’m glad I didn’t quit. My brother and my family helped me out a lot with that. I just happened to find myself again.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760
College Gridiron Showcase
All-division all-star football game, 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Maverick Stadium, UT Arlington campus, 1307 W. Mitchell St.
Notable players: Tevin Mitchel (Arkansas/Mansfield Legacy), Darius White (Missouri/Fort Worth Dunbar), John Harris (Texas), Levi Norwood (Baylor), Cyril Lemon (North Texas), Antonio Johnson (North Texas), Floyd Raven (Texas A&M), Ricky Collins (Texas A&M-Commerce), Charles Tuaau (Texas A&M-Commerce) and Ashton Dorsey (Texas A&M-Commerce)