Not unlike some of his former teammates, former UWM men’s basketball player Demetrius Harris is living out a dream by playing professional sports. However, the former Panther is different from most Milwaukee basketball veterans in that his professional playing career is in a sport he never played in college.
Late last month, Harris realized a dream when he was named to the Kansas City Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster for the 2014 season. He spent the 2013 NFL season on the team’s practice squad and worked tirelessly in the weight room and on the field to hone his football skills after so much time away from a game he hadn’t played since high school. Now, his career as a tight end in the National Football League finally takes flight with a niche spot on the Chief’s special teams. He suited up for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Next up is a Sept. 14 Chiefs/Broncos match up, but first–things-first says Harris, who now describes himself as strictly a football guy.
“I’m very excited to have made the team, but I don’t want to be too excited and get ahead of myself,” Harris said. “There’s still work to be done and I’m looking forward to the full season.”
In high school, Harris was a two-sport star in Jacksonville, Ark., earning all-state honors in both football and basketball. After signing to play football at Arkansas State University, the 6-foot-7 Harris had a change of heart and opted to focus his energy on playing basketball in college instead. That switch in plans brought him to Mineral Area Community College in Missouri, where he shined for two years. As a sophomore, he put up 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and collected All-Midwest Community College Athletic Conference and NJCAA All-Region 16 accolades before signing to play at Milwaukee.
Following a junior season in which he contributed 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per outing, Harris blossomed into a force at both ends of the floor during his senior campaign in 2012-13. In addition to scoring in double digits on 12 occasions as a senior, Harris recorded a pair of double doubles and in a game versus IUPUI on February 23, 2013, accounted for 21 points, nine rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots.
Harris’s outstanding speed and athleticism stood out to scouts and following his career at Milwaukee, he was signed by the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. He was one of 16 players on the Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster to have been an undrafted free agent.
“Coach Jeter and the rest of the staff taught me to work hard and never give up,” Harris said. “My time at Milwaukee helped prepare me for this opportunity. I’m thankful to everyone at UWM, but especially to my coaches and professors for preparing me for life after college.”