WASHINGTON — When the NFL draft concluded on April 27, Deion Harris didn’t hear his name called during the ESPN broadcast.
The former Hibbing High School and University of North Dakota standout was disappointed, to say the least, but right after the draft, his phone started ringing.
The first to come calling were the Green Bay Packers, then the Washington Redskins.
Harris had been invited to their rookie camps, which were being run on different days.
Harris went to the Packers camp, left, then he headed to Washington where he was signed immediately after his tryout.
Now, Harris is taking part in the Redskins training camp, and he’s fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster when the NFL season opens in September.
The Green Bay opportunity didn’t last too long.
“They brought me into camp, and I was the only tryout guy for my position,” Harris said. “They already had guys signed at cornerback, and that’s why I was there for the workout. I was still trying to make the team, but my chances were slim.
“I still went there and competed. They were looking at signing me if any injuries happened. Had that happened, they would have brought me back, but I was trying to get signed by another team.”
That team was Washington.
“They contacted me right after the Packers camp, which was two or three days before their camp,” Harris said.
Harris headed off to his new destination, taking with him some valuable lessons learned from the Green Bay camp.
“That gave me some good insight,” Harris said. “I got a little taste of it. It was good and bad. Bad that I didn’t make the team, but good that I got the tryout. I got a headstart on the other rookies who hadn’t done it yet.
“I was ready for it. I competed hard. I did my thing to show them that I was one of the best there. I tried to put on a good performance.”
Harris did enough good things at the Redskins’ camp to get noticed.
“I showed consistency,” Harris said. “I played my game, and put on a good impression for the coaches. They signed me after the second day. Making the team was a dream come true.
“I cried a little bit, then called everybody in my family. I had made my first NFL team. It was the best feeling ever.”
The hardest part was yet to come.
Harris had to start learning the plays and get comfortable with the Redskins’ system.
He attended OTA’s, which are no-contact practices, but the intensity level is still high.
“I was getting better every day,” Harris said. “At OTA’s, you’re still competing out there. I was trying to fit in, getting to know the players. A lot of them were rookies because the veterans didn’t come in until later on.”
At mandatory minicamp, which are held three days within the OTA’s, that’s when the veterans reported.
That’s when Harris got somewhat star struck.
“It was crazy meeting Adrian Peterson, Josh Norman, Vernon Davis and Case Keenum, guys I’ve looked up to in the past, but I didn’t want to get too overwhelmed because I had to go up against them every day,” Harris said. “It was a good feeling getting to see the guys.”
The mandatory minicamp ended on June 15.
Harris took some time to visit his family in Hibbing, but he had to get prepared for the start of training camp on July 25.
He reported back to Washington on July 23, and the Redskins held some conditioning work on July 24.
“This is my job now,” Harris said. “I’ve been grinding ever since. I’m working on my craft and my body to get better.”
As of today, Harris has been at four practice sessions, and he said things have been going well.
“I was more than ready,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I’m stronger and faster than I was before. I’m having fun with it. It might be different for the other people, but it’s a fun experience for me.
Physically, Harris was fit. Mentally, Harris had to learn the Redskins’ playbook.
“I knew going into OTA’s it was more of a learning experience for me,” he said. “I had my ups and downs because my learning wasn’t at its full potential. Now, I’m studying the playbook, and I came back more than ready.
“I’m trying to make the 53-man roster.”
What’s it been like learning an NFL playbook?
“It’s not complicated because I understand the game,” Harris said. “If there’s something I don’t know, I contact a coach or a teammate. When it comes to studying concepts, you have to know the game.
“You can’t go a day without studying because you might miss something on that day.”
Knowing what’s going on is a big first step in trying to make the team.
“You have to show consistency and versatility,” Harris said. “You have to produce for them and do your job without them having to worry about you. It’s also important to stay healthy, and showing you’re coachable. You have to stay on the top of your game.”
The one way for Harris to make the team is the ability to play special teams.
He’s taking that part of the game seriously.
“I want to win a job by taking it 110-percent seriously,” Harris said. “I’m giving it everything I’ve got. When the preseason games roll around, I’ll be flying around next Thursday against Cleveland.
“It’ll be a dream-come-true. The best feeling ever. I’ll be putting on my first NFL jersey with my name on the back of it. It’ll be a good feeling to go out there and play my heart out. I’m blessed. I’m staying on top of my game. I’m doing this for my family.”