chiefs find a possible gem
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid named Demetrius Harris Friday as a player who has stood out in OTA workouts, it was confirmation of new general manager John Dorsey's successful sleuthing as a scout. Harris, a 6-foot-6, 237-pound, former UW-Milwaukee basketball player, was signed as an undrafted free-agent tight-end prospect. His play during workouts has been so outstanding that Reid thought it should be obvious to everyone, including the media. "I'll tell you what. ... Harris has done a nice job," Reid told reporters Friday when asked if any undrafted prospects have stood out. "He came in as a basketball player and has gotten better and better every day. You see him making plays. I'm sure you guys noticed that." But Reid credited Dorsey as the first who noticed Harris. "John Dorsey, that was his guy and he saw the ability there," Reid said. "He had been a real good high school receiver so you bring him in and give him a shot. That's what those are all about -- those tryout positions. He came in and stayed in and made the most of it so far." The Chiefs were the first NFL team to keep close tabs on Harris because Dorsey followed up on a tip he received two years ago when he was scouting for the Green Bay Packers. During an all-star game in Little Rock, Ark., a friend told Dorsey about a football player from that area who was playing basketball "up north," at UW-Milwaukee. "I put him on my Franklin day calendar to explore this guy two years down the road," Dorsey said. Like others, Dorsey believes there are NFL nuggets to be mined in college basketball. He agrees with the theory that some of the best tight end candidates are playing power forward in college. "I always (scout) five or six basketball guys a year," said Dorsey. "We went to Portsmouth, Va., one year to evaluate 50 basketball players. Mid-majors is where you make your money on stuff like that because they're not in the pool for basketball." And they are not as well known as, for example, Tony Gonzalez, the former two sport star from Cal whose potential was so conspicuous that the Chiefs had to trade up to take him in the first round of the 1997 draft. Now with Atlanta, Gonzalez is considered a future Hall of Famer with numerous NFL receiving records as a tight end. While it is no secret that power forwards can be great tight-end prospects, the trick is to steal one without using a first-round pick. The best theft of that sort was Antonio Gates. He played only basketball at Kent State, but was signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2003 as an undrafted free agent and has been a Pro Bowl tight end eight times. So, with Dorsey's recommendation, it was with great anticipation that Chiefs area scout Ryan Kessenich, a Madison native who graduated from UWM in 2006, brought Harris in for a workout in early April. Kessenich already knew Harris had some football experience. At Jacksonville in Arkansas, Harris was a receiver and a hard-hitting safety. As a senior he caught 47 passes for 738 yards and, as a roving safety, collected 146 tackles, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown. And, although he didn't play football at UW-Milwaukee, basketball coach Bob Jeter long thought that Harris belonged on the football field. "I think he was a football player all along and we were trying to make him a basketball player," said Jeter. "What people have to understand, before he did that workout he was coming off spring break for two weeks and only had a week to focus in and get ready. It just goes to show you how much better he can be." Oh yes, that workout. Harris ran 40 yards in 4.52 seconds, soared 36.5 inches in the vertical jump and went 10 feet, two inches in the standing broad jump. Add to that an 81-inch wingspan and hands that measure 10.25 inches, and Harris was obviously worth attention. But even as the Chiefs tried to keep him a secret, his agent made sure other teams knew and soon Harris was working out for more than a dozen teams. And only a few weeks earlier he was weighing options that included playing pro basketball in Europe or transferring to Arkansas State for one year of football. But because he was short credits to graduate from UWM, European basketball seemed to be his best option. That's when Dorsey made sure to follow up on that tip from two years ago. And soon half the NFL was in on the secret. After the draft, Harris almost signed with the Baltimore Ravens, but stuck with the Chiefs out of loyalty to Dorsey. "They're the ones who got me this opportunity," Harris said. "They're the ones that believed in me. (Dorsey) was the one who saw something in me." And now Reid thinks anybody watching workouts should see something in Harris.