Published: September 11, 2013
Editor's note: The "Broncos Roots" series takes you off the field and into the lives of the Broncos. Denver columnist Paul Klee will profile one individual every Thursday until the Broncos' bye in Week 8.
DENVER — On the field, Chris Harris is an ornery pest, really, like a brave squirrel that believes the Halloween pumpkin is on the front porch for his sake.
He doesn't wait for an invitation. If Harris wants a tackle or the ball, he goes and gets it.
"Always been that way," the Broncos cornerback says. "I was playing tackle football at like 5 years old."
So what happened with the most important first move of his life?
There was this girl, you see. There's always a girl. As a freshman at Kansas, Chris had met her in a Bible study. He didn't ask her out then. He waited. And when four years had passed, Chris Harris still couldn't get Leah Brown off his mind.
"It was after college. I just remember he sent me a little email and said, 'Hey, I haven't talked to you in a while," says Leah, who was also a student at KU. "And he gave me his phone number.
"I said, 'Oh, I don't call guys. Here's my number. You call me.'"
So much for that quick first move, Chris.
But nice work.
"Hey, it worked out!" he says, laughing.
This is not your typical love story, not by today's standards. Chris' friends couldn't even figure out whom he was dating. Leah didn't party. She wasn't in the club Saturdays.
"I was in church," she says.
One year ago, Chris and Leah Harris were married. You will see Mrs. Harris, or hear Mrs. Harris, hooting and hollering in the friends and family section at Broncos games. How a voice that loud can come from a person so small, well, that's a Biblical miracle.
Six days later, Leah's voice is still hoarse from the Broncos' 49-27 beatdown of the Ravens. Her leg is bruised, too, presumably from bashing it against the seat when her husband made the highlight-reel interception of Joe Flacco that ushered in a Broncos rout. He went and got it.
"I promise you, I was praying for that interception," Leah says. "I said 'Lord this is it.' And 20 seconds later he got the interception. I said, 'Thank the Lord! We got it!'"
Against the Ravens, Harris earned the second-highest grade on the Broncos defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Only linebacker Shaun Phillips had a higher grade.
Over a stretch of 220-plus pass attempts, which included Baltimore's playoff run to a Super Bowl title, Flacco threw two interceptions. Both were to Harris.
Harris' performance showed he has the instincts to be the kind of playmaker that litter Super Bowl rosters.
Put it this way: Harris is far better than almost anyone outside the NFL realizes.
His is a classic story of a football underdog. In high school in Oklahoma, Harris didn't earn a scholarship offer from the state schools (or the University of Tulsa, a few miles from his home). A four-year starter at Kansas, Harris wasn't selected in the NFL draft.
"The amazing thing is that he came to us as a college free agent," coach John Fox says.
Champ Bailey, with a foot injury, worked with a strength coach on the sideline but didn't practice again Wednesday. His absence would be more pronounced on the road against the Giants, who had three wide receivers eclipse 100 yards receiving in their season opener. Eli Manning passed for 450 yards.
"They've got some serious talent over there on offense," Broncos safety Rahim Moore says.
So why write about Chris and Leah Harris? What I've learned is that one does not come without the other. This is a package deal.
Ask about Leah's clothing business, Timeless Impression, Chris whips out his iPhone to show off photos of her blinged-out Broncos shirts and ballcaps.
"When you get married, it's a covenant between me, her and God. That's the only thing that makes it work," he says. "It's kind of cool that I met her at Bible study. Meeting her there, that was a pretty big sign, really."
Ask about her upcoming plans, Leah rattles off the couple's charity work: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Chris Harris Foundation and the Chris Harris Student Success Challenge.
"Chris, he's a true underdog," Leah says. "When we're working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, I think that's what encourages those kids the most. You don't have to be the big star to make it."