Harris is team’s Man of the Year
Cornerback saluted for his charitable contributions
The day after the Broncos returned from Buffalo, where they took their first loss of the season, cornerback Chris Harris hosted a coat drive at a local steakhouse to benefit Denver Children’s Home, an organization that helps kids who have survived trauma and abuse confront mental health challenges. Joined by some of his teammates, Harris raised nearly $6,000 that September evening and watched as nearly 350 winter coats and multiple pairs of boots were stacked high for those in need.
“They never have winter clothes, so I just thought this would be a great opportunity to have something for them, to be able to provide them, mostly the homeless, warm clothes by the time winter comes,” Harris said at the time. “It’s something that is very needed, so I’ll definitely try to do it every year.”
The day after the Broncos returned from Miami, where they took their ninth and arguably worst loss of the season this past weekend, Harris joined nearly 100 families at the Denver Rescue Mission for their annual holiday party. The initiative was once led by former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Harris has carried the torch.
“He personally told me to take over and continue to uplift these people as much as possible,” Harris said. “This is one of the best turnouts I think we’ve had here. We had a lot of teammates join this time, and it’s good seeing familiar people.”
Thursday, Harris’ years of leadership on the field and in the community were recognized by the Broncos, who selected him as their 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He and the 31 other selections by NFL teams will be up for the prestigious national award announced Feb. 3, before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Over the years Harris has made a habit of matching his on-field feats with off-field contributions in Denver and Tulsa, Okla., his hometown. In 2012, Harris launched the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation to provide underprivileged youth opportunities to achieve their goals. His annual Underdog Academy Football and Cheer Camp in Tulsa has helped young athletes learn the fundamentals of the game, while his Underdog Success Program has helped students in the classroom.
Locally, he has partnered with many organizations — the Denver Rescue Mission, Denver Children’s Home and local chapters of Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America — and this past summer he joined Mayor Michael Hancock to launch Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of mentoring relationships for young people.
Harris has also been a part of national and local campaigns to speak out against domestic violence and to go beyond raising public awareness to effect longterm change in preventing relationship violence. In 2015 and 2016, Harris received the Broncos’ Community Ambassador Awards for his help with team initiatives, and in 2013 he was selected by local media as the team’s Darrent Williams Good Guy Award.
“Chris is a team guy. His role on our team is as a leader and as a playmaker,” coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s unbelievable the things he’s done in the community. He takes pride in that. And he doesn’t do it for the awards or the attention. He does it because he cares about the community and the kids in the community. He’s always pushing his teammates to do more and more in the community, and that’s a special guy to have in your locker room.”
The winner of the leaguewide Walter Payton Man of the Year award will receive a $500,000 charitable contribution — $250,000 in his name to expand Character Playbook, the NFL’s digital education program, and another $250,000 for the charity of his choice.
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris chats with Kaleal Pride, 14, as they decorate gingerbread cookies at a Denver Rescue Mission holiday charity event this week.