On the field, he may hope for Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro nods. But that’s not why he’s so involved in both the Denver metro area and his home state of Oklahoma.
That’s not why he started the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012; it’s not why he works extensively with the Denver Children’s Home and the Salvation Army; and it’s not why he’s stayed so involved with the Denver Rescue Mission.
No, the Broncos’ 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee didn’t get involved with a variety of community initiatives for the recognition.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it.
His accomplishments — which also include starting a cheap super bowl jerseys camp for ‘underdogs’ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, helping Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock launch Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped program and working on various statewide and nationwide campaigns against domestic violence — speak for themselves.
His teammates, though, are willing to speak on Harris’ behalf, too.
Virgil Green, who was the Broncos’ 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, explained recently why he believes Harris deserves consideration as a finalist.
“I think he makes himself available quite a bit, and he has a lot of things going on,” Green said. “He’s been working with his foundation for years. Obviously, he’s had success with that not only here but back home in Oklahoma. Anytime you have a guy that’s doing that much for other people for that long, I think it shows that he deserves to be nominated for an award that prestigious.”
Harris has similarly impressed his younger teammates. Justin Simmons received one of the Broncos’ Community Ambassador Awards in 2017 and is one of the most-involved Broncos players in the community.
Just as Champ Bailey inspired Harris to be involved, it’s fair to say that Harris has taught another generation of Denver players about the importance of serving the community, Simmons said.
“Chris is unbelievable,” Simmons said. “When you’re talking about Walter Payton Man of the Year for on- and off-the-field accomplishments, he’s the perfect guy on our team for that. Chris is one of the main reasons I am so involved in the community. I see the reputation he has on the field, but being in the locker room and seeing what he does off the field is impressive.
“There’s always something. He’s always involved. And he has two kids. He’s just always involved in what’s going on around Denver. So for me as a young guy last year, I was like, ‘To see a guy like this — Pro Bowler, All-Pro — giving back to his community, that’s what it’s all about.’ He kind of got me involved early.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Harris is the least willing to stump for his case as a finalist.
When asked following the nomination why he deserved to move on to the final three, Harris kept his answer simple.
“I’m impacting thousands of kids,” Harris said. “I’m balling on the field —that’s one [reason]. Being able to change these lives, I feel like I’m a great representation for the award. [A] family man — [a] perfect Walter Payton Award finalist. That’s a good pitch.