Dozens of football players at the KC Chiefs rookie minicamp are getting the their final shot at making a career out of playing the game. Most of them won't ever suit up again. The Chiefs have roughly three dozen tryout players and one, maybe two, will end up signing a deal with the Chiefs. That's why you have to have potential. The coaching staff has to be able to see a future for you, even if that future won't be realized in 2013.
For Demetrius Harris the future is easy to see. Harris is a former basketball player at UW-Milwaukee trying to make it as a Chiefs tight end. Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez -- all former basketball players themselves -- make envisioning Harris' future easy. The athletic tight end is the new thing in the NFL. Everyone's doing it!
Of course, there's a difference between envisioning something and actually going out and realizing that.
Harris is trying to find a spot on the Chiefs roster at this weekend's minicamp. It's clear after watching an hour of practice that he hasn't played football in four years. He sits on the sideline -- watching -- most of the time. A coach is near him, explaining things to him as the day goes on. If he was in on more than a half dozen plays during practice then I didn't see it. Limited reps to be sure. He isn't even sweaty when practice ends.
He's tall, but not bulky. If you look close enough you could convince yourself that's a basketball player's body and not a football player's but to say he looked different than any of the other tight ends would not be accurate. He's just slightly taller at 6'7. I expected to see skinny legs -- basketball player and all -- but his legs look like the rest of the players on the field.
Harris has one of the most impressive catches at Saturday's practice. Lined up on the left side of the field, Harris ran a slant across the middle of the field. The quarterback fires it, just a step or two in front of Harris, who is able to stretch out his hands and snag the ball. From my vantage point the full extension of the arms made it a really neat looking catch. In a setting that allows tackling Harris probably gets lit up going across the middle. But in a practice setting, that's 80 yards to the house.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is learning the playbook. Harris explains that in college they had one word plays on their wristbands so this, the West Coast Offense, is a new type of playbook education. Andy Reid's offense has a lot of verbiage in it. Harris has his work cut out for him in that department alone.
The problem, as Harris describes it, is that he has to think. "When they call the play, I have to think," Harris said. "I don't want to be thinking too much. I don't want to mess up."
Andy Reid clearly sees tight end as a critical position. One of the first things Reid did when he got here was sign Anthony Fasano to a multi-year contract. Fasano is a solid blocker and receiver. Same with Travis Kelce, who was drafted in the third round. Those two signings should indicate to you the level of importance Reid puts in the tight ends. Harris will have to demonstrate he's more than a one-trick pony when it comes to his position.
You never know how these things turn out. Just by looking at Harris I can tell you he has a shot. The size is there. But does he have the work ethic? What will he do when the Chiefs inevitably cut him -- keep going or quit? How will his body handle more size? Can he stay healthy? All those questions will become serious factors into Harris' future, and even then he'll have to be a little lucky.
Tony Gonzalez was a first round pick. Jimmy Graham a third round pick. The comparison for Harris would be Antonio Gates, who went undrafted in 2003. Except with Gates you could see the real potential fairly quickly. He was an All-Pro by year two. It's not as easy to see with Harris but if you squint it's there. Now will he ever get a chance to show that?