NFL

'Look at where I came from': Wichita's Davontae Harris selected in NFL Draft

South senior Davontae Harris jokes around his cousin Antonio Baker, his wife, Kristy, daughter Jayla, 3, and son Devin, 6, while hanging around at home Tuesday, April 23, 2013.
South senior Davontae Harris jokes around his cousin Antonio Baker, his wife, Kristy, daughter Jayla, 3, and son Devin, 6, while hanging around at home Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Wichita Eagle

This past week, in the days leading up to the NFL Draft, Davontae Harris has made it a point to drive through the neighborhood where he grew up in Wichita.

It's a reminder of where he came from: growing up in a studio apartment where he slept on a mattress in the kitchen, right next to the refrigerator.

It was those memories that were on Harris' mind on Saturday afternoon when the Illinois State cornerback was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round with the No. 151 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

"Look at where I came from and look at what I've overcome and look at where I am now," Harris told The Eagle. "That's what motivates me completely. I never want my kids to go through what I went through. I want to put my family in a position where I can be the one to create generational wealth."

Playing in the NFL has not been a lifelong dream for Harris, who didn't start playing football until his sophomore year in high school at Wichita South. Even then, injuries limited Harris to 15 games in three years.

He was so inexperienced when he arrived at Illinois State in 2013 that he was mocked by his own teammates for not knowing that P.I. stood for pass interference.

"Everybody would look at me like 'that was a dumb question, how do you not know that?'" Harris said. "But I was so new to the sport that every little detail, small or big, was new to me. I'm the type of guy if I don't know the answer to something, then I'm going to ask and keep going until I find a way to get the answer."

But what Harris had going for him was that he was more physically gifted than any other cornerback at Illinois State. After leading ISU in special-teams tackles his redshirt freshman season, Harris became a three-year starter for the Redbirds and finished his career this past season as a first-team All-American pick by three different outlets.

Harris hopes to follow a similar path with the Bengals: impress on special teams and leverage that into a starting job.

"I plan on going in and taking as many roles on special teams as they'll give me," Harris said. "Of course I want to play at corner or somewhere in the secondary, but special teams is going to be the one big way I'm going to earn my spot."

Harris admits he doesn't know much about Cincinnati or the Bengals but plans on researching both immediately. While it's a 12-hour road trip from Wichita, Harris points out it's only a four-hour drive for his Illinois State family.

He's just excited to get his NFL career underway.

"It's kind of nerve-wracking wondering when your name is going to be called," Harris said. "It was a super long wait, but it was definitely worth the wait."

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