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Wild’s Harper playing well enough to attraction attention

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 7:37 a.m.

Oklahoma at Wild

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hartman Arena, Park City

Records: Oklahoma 2-5, Wild 7-1

Radio: KGSO, 1410-AM

Kendrick Harper was getting off work with the Wichita school district Friday when he made time to talk about his impressive third season with the Wild.

If the rumblings surrounding Harper lately gain steam, work will take on a vastly different meaning.

His standout play at defensive back for Wichita (7-1) has drawn, if the rumors are true, attention from the Canadian Football League and perhaps even the NFL.

Whether that is accurate, it doesn’t seem Harper has much left to prove in indoor football. In 2 1/2 seasons with the Wild, the former Butler Community College and University of Kansas player has 21 interceptions. His five picks this season are tied for the Champions Professional Indoor Football League lead with, among others, teammate Chris Hemphill.

Harper has heard talk of a potential move to a higher level, but he said he hasn’t been contacted directly by teams from either the CFL or the NFL.

"As I’ve heard, I think (teams are interested), but I’m not really worried about that," Harper said. "That’s fine, too, but I’m here to win a championship. If I have an opportunity to do that and help my team, I’m willing to do that. But also, if I get another opportunity with a different league, I’d be willing to do that, also."

Defensive back may be the position that translates best from outdoor football to the indoor game. It could be argued that defensive backs in indoor football are more valuable, because they are often in one-on-one coverage with little deep help.

Harper thrives in such an environment, and with fewer players on the field, opposing quarterbacks don’t always have the luxury of avoiding him. When they throw toward Harper, he uses his speed and good hands to make plays.

"It all starts with everybody playing as a unit," Harper said. "We all communicate on both side of the ball, and with the pressure my defensive line is getting, it’s awesome. That allows me to get interceptions."

That pressure from James McCartney, Matt Moss and Darius Parish, forces quarterbacks into making quick decisions and gives them little time to make throws. When a sack doesn’t occur — the Wild leads the league by a wide margin in that category — Harper is often the beneficiary of hurried passes.

If the CFL or NFL is interested in Harper, it might be because he has used three years in Wichita to prove his good health. He suffered a neck injury while at college but has been reliable for Wichita. He’s sometimes used as a kick returner.

"That’s the past," Harper said of his college injury troubles. "All I can do is do what I do best, and that’s perform. Everything else takes care of itself."

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