Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (2024)

An NFL All-Decade performer, Harris announced his retirement as a player during his podcast. He is now focusing on his wife and five daughters and media career.

DENVER — There were a couple years during the Peyton Manning era in Denver, the early to mid-2010s, when Chris Harris Jr. was the unquestioned best nickel cornerback in the NFL. Real good boundary corner on first and second down, too. But no one was better on the inside.

For proof, Harris was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team as cornerback, primarily for his work as a slot corner, in the 2010s.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted and signed with the Broncos during the lockout season of 2011 for a mere $2,000 bonus.

“I think the difference with me compared to Ronde (Barber) and a lot of the older slot guys at the time, they got to play a little bit more zone,’’ Harris Jr. said Tuesday in an interview with 9NEWS. “I was one of the first nickels to play man and shut down the whole middle of the field. That’s what set me apart, I think.”

After playing 12 seasons in the NFL, nine with the Broncos, and then taking a year to transition to life’s second chapter, Harris said he announced about a month ago on his Bleav in Broncos podcast he was retiring as a player. From there word of his official retirement started gradually spreading through various media outlets.

That included 9NEWS who caught up to Harris on Tuesday.

“I just wanted to stay ready last year,’’ Harris said. “I kept in shape but I was also transferring to the media, transferring to the next phase of my life. Focusing on the kids but I was always ready (to keep playing).

“I never really got a chance to play safety, either, which I was willing to do. But I still felt like I was a good player. I still felt like I was in pretty good shape so I wanted to wait a year just in case somebody needed anything. And now moving on to the next part of my career, I just wanted to close this chapter.”

Harris will no doubt one day be up for discussion for the Broncos’ Ring of Fame as he was a four-time Pro Bowler with the team, three-time All-Pro and key member of the No Fly Zone secondary that helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.

Moreover, Harris and Von Miller were the only two Broncos who were named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team.

“I think the All-Decade is a pretty good selling point right there,’’ Harris said.

Tenacious and tough, Harris had the nickname, ‘Strap,’ because of his close coverage on quick slot receivers and big tight ends, alike. He was also a strong tackler in the run game. All the traits, in other words, teams want in its nickel corners.

Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (1) Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (2)

Credit: AP Photo/Joe Mahoney

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) and Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) celebrate after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Denver.

Harris was a quintessential underdog story. At Kansas, he was a starting freshman cornerback with Aqib Talib an All-American junior playing corner on the other side. The Jayhawks went 12-1 that year and were ranked No. 2 in the country before losing a closely-fought Big 12 Championship Game to Missouri.

But in Harris’ senior year, he was moved to safety by new head coach Turner Gill. At 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, Harris was considered a tad small by NFL safety standards and went undrafted. His agent Fredrick Lyles worked to get him hooked up with the Broncos as an undrafted cornerback.

True story: then-Broncos scout Dave Ziegler peeked into head coach John Fox’s office after the 2011 draft and asked which of two undrafted corners he wanted to sign: the extremely fast corner, or the corner who was smart but not quite as fast. Fox said he wanted the smart one.

Harris was a Bronco.

“Moving to safety my senior hurt me as far as the draft but it gave me some experience,’’ Harris said. “It allowed me to play every position and become versatile. Even though it did hurt me in the draft and draft stock, I think overall in my career, it helped me.”

There was no offseason program during that lockout season of 2011 but Harris made the season-opening, 53-man roster as a relentlessly competitive rookie special teamer and part-time corner.

In 2012 – Manning’s first season with the Broncos – Denver was 2-3 on the season and trailing its AFC West-rival San Diego Chargers, 24-0 at halftime, in game 6. Harris, subbing for starter Tracy Porter, who was out because of seizure complications, clinched a 35-24 comeback win with a 46-yard pick six off Philip Rivers.

“I’ll never forget getting the first chance to really start versus San Diego,’’ Harris said. “Monday Night, the big comeback. I had two picks that game, was able to make some plays and right there that was me saying, I’m not giving this spot back.”

Later that season, in mid-December, Harris had a 98-yard touchdown return of an interception off Baltimore’s Joe Flacco .

“I forgot that Flacco play,’’ Harris said with his customary laugh. “It was right before the half now that I’m thinking about it and when we got to the locker room everybody was amped up but I couldn’t breathe.”

The Broncos routed Flacco’s Baltimore Ravens that day. But four weeks later, the Broncos would fall to the Flacco Fling in a stunning playoff game.

“He got us back,’’ Harris said.

Harris and his wife Leah live in the Dallas area with their five – count ‘em, five – daughters (Aria, 9; Avianna, 7; Laliyah, 5; Amaris, 4 and Amiyah, 11 months).

“We kept trying, they kept coming out girls,’’ Harris said with a laugh. “Hey, Mike, softball, soccer – the girls are going to be next. (Amaris), she’s 4, she averages like 10 to 12 goals a game. We have to slow her down. She’s got quick feet like me.”

In the Dallas area, Harris said he runs into his old friend Aqib Talib.

“He’s doing good,’’ Harris said. “He’s just taking care of his family and staying out of the way.”

As for life’s second chapter, Harris was one of about 20 former players picked to attend the NFL broadcasting school a month ago.

“I got a couple opportunities coming, man,’’ he said. “You all stay ready. Whether it’s going to be TV or radio, analyst or live game color commentator. I’ve been practicing live games. Getting ready for this next phase.

“I’m practicing and doing it live there. I got a lot of nice feedback from the networks. They’re calling.”

Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (3) Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (4)

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. takes the field during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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Former Broncos standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr. moves on to life's next chapter (2024)
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