Well-traveled Harris pursues NFL dream

5/18/2006
Harris
Harris

Josh Harris may have to invest in a road map to find his way around.

The former record-setting quarterback from Bowling Green has traveled all over North America the last two years while continuing to chase his dream of playing pro football.

It has been a bumpy ride.

Harris was a sixth-round draft pick of Baltimore in 2004. Released by the Ravens three days after the league's mandatory cut-down day in September, he was placed on the practice squad.

Three months later, Cleveland signed Harris off Baltimore's practice squad and he served as Luke McCown's backup for two games with the Browns at the end of the season.

Harris went to Cleveland's camp last year poised to win a roster spot, but the Browns cut him in early September.

He spent the second half of the 2005 season as a backup with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.

When the CFL season ended, Harris hooked on with his hometown team, the Columbus

Destroyers of the Arena Football League.

But right before the Destroyers opened training camp in early January, the New York Giants signed Harris as a free agent after he impressed them in a tryout.

Harris has been cut so many times he needs stitches, but it hasn't curtailed his drive.

He is happy to be back in the NFL, competing for a roster spot.

"This is the highest level you can play at and this is where I want to be," Harris said from New Jersey, where he has been working out and studying the team's playbook the last two months. "Until they tell me I can't be there, I'll keep trying."

Harris, 6-1 and 234 pounds, will take part in a Giants minicamp two weekends from now.

His NFL passing stats - 22-for-46 for 223 yards - have all been compiled in preseason play with the Ravens and Browns.

"When you're the third or fourth quarterback, you don't get many repetitions," Harris said. "You have to impress people when you get your shot."

Although just 23 years old, Harris - the son of former NFL tight end M.L. Harris - realizes he could be running out of chances. He is one of four Giants quarterbacks, joining Eli Manning, Tim Hasselbeck and Jared Lorenzen. Manning was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL in 2004, Hasselbeck was claimed off waivers from the Washington Redskins last May and Lorenzen - aka the hefty lefty - was signed as an undrafted free agent two years ago.

"I'm competing with myself," said Harris, who ranks second in passing yards (7,053) and touchdowns (55) and fifth in rushing yards (2,473) at Bowling Green. "I want to play the best football I can and hopefully things will work out for me and my family.

"It's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time."

Harris has talked to his former backup at BG, Omar Jacobs, a handful of times since Jacobs was drafted in the fifth round by the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Harris' advice to Jacobs: Be patient and work hard.

"I'm not worried about Omar," Harris said. "He understands what it takes to play in this league."

Harris does too.

Unfortunately, his fledgling pro career has included many detours, not to mention stops so far in three leagues and five cities.