INDIANAPOLIS – He walked into the Indiana Convention Center media room and took his place at the table, but only because it was required.
Former Michigan middle linebacker David Harris made it quite clear he’d rather be somewhere else.
“I’m just ready to be on the field, knocking somebody out,” Harris said.
And for Harris, the man who made his name laying out opposing players, the NFL Scouting Combine at the RCA Dome in late February wasn’t exactly the stage he wanted to be on.
But he knows the combine is key to him playing on Sundays.
“It’s been great,” Harris said of his time at the combine. “Get a chance to meet the coaches and a lot of top players in the country. It’s a great experience.”
Following a disappointing loss to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, Harris spent his time at Parisi’s Speed School in New Jersey preparing for the combine and his pro day at Michigan.
But before he left for the East Coast, he had a chance encounter with Michigan coach Lloyd Carr in a Schembechler Hall hallway.
It was then that Carr provided Harris a piece of advice.
“He just told me to keep working hard and be myself and good things will happen to me,” Harris said.
The soft-spoken fifth-year senior also made a trip to Mobile, Ala., to play in the Senior Bowl, where he practiced under the direction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches whom he said helped him understand the demanding nature of the NFL.
Harris first realized pro football may be in his future when a coach told him of his potential in 2005. From there, the Grand Rapids native’s draft position skyrocketed with an outstanding season this year.
After suffering through two injury plagued seasons, Harris was finally able to roam the middle of the field for a Michigan defense that dominated most opponents. The 6-foot-2 linebacker led the Wolverines with 103 tackles, 70 of which were solo. After the season, Harris collected numerous awards, and was named to the All-America second team and All-Big Ten first team.
Even though he’s not the tallest or the fastest linebacker in this year’s NFL draft, Harris doesn’t let the numbers concern him.
“I just (try to) be a leader,” said Harris, who is listed as the No. 2 linebacker in the draft by Mike Mayock, an NFL Network draft analyst. “Just got to go out, react and have instincts. Football isn’t all about speed, it’s all about reaction time and how well you can read plays. And I feel like I can do that pretty well.”
At the combine, Harris participated in every linebacker drill. He performed well in the 40-yard dash, posting a 4.59. In the bench press, he finished with 23 repetitions of 225 pounds.
A majority of NFL teams also interviewed Harris. But perhaps the most intriguing draft-day suitor was the Detroit Lions, who may be shopping for a middle linebacker.
Growing up in West Michigan, Harris has been a life-long Lions fans and would consider donning the blue and gray “a great opportunity.”
Still, with all the talk in Indianapolis centered on the NFL, Harris kept to his humble ways when asked about an intended spending spree after signing with a team.
“I’ll put it all in the bank and take care of my mom and dad,” Harris said with a smile. “I might buy a little small car or something. Nothing big.”
Harris’s choice of transportation may not mirror the way he plays the game, but it does his demeanor.
A week before the combine began, Harris returned to Grand Rapids to relax with his family and friends. He said it was a chance to get some of mom’s home cooking and take his mind off of football for a while.
But as much as Harris enjoys time back at home, he might have to cancel any family time scheduled for Sundays.
“It’s another level,” Harris said. “These are the best athletes on the planet playing football, and I got to get myself ready.”