ASHBURN, Va — At least Deion Harris kept a positive attitude.
The Hibbing native has long dreamed of a National Football League career, but when it came time for the Washington Redskins to trim their final roster to 52 players, Harris was on the short end of the stick.
The Redskins released Harris, so he came back to Hibbing, not believing that his shot at the NFL was over, but thinking there was still an opportunity to catch on with a team and live out that dream.
That opportunity came on Thursday, Sept. 12, while Harris was playing in a touch football game in Grand Rapids.
His phone rang, the number was from Virginia and it was the Redskins, who wanted to sign Harris to their practice squad.
Harris was on a plane the next day, and he is working with Washington’s practice squad, helping prepare the team for its upcoming game with the Chicago Bears Monday.
Harris did play in all four preseason games for the Redskins, and he thought he was performing well.
“I was trying to take advantage of my opportunity,” Harris said. “I did well enough to show the team that I have potential.”
There was no doubt that playing at the NFL level was an eye-opener for Harris.
“The speed of the game was a lot faster, but after that first game, it slowed down a lot,” Harris said. “I was working harder in practice, using that speed against guys I was going against every day in practice.
“You can’t let up at all. You have to do your job in every situation, no matter what they throw at you.”
Even so, it’s a hard life in the NFL, so when cut-down day came, Harris was on his way out the door.
He never thought that was the end of it, however.
Harris had other plans in case the NFL didn’t work out.
“If the NFL didn’t bring me back, I was going to play in the XFL, which begins in February,” Harris said. “That’s what was on my mind. That’s what I was set on, if I didn’t get the call back.
“It’s a waiting process, but I was still training, plus I was helping with the (Hibbing) high school team. I kept my faith high. I knew it wasn’t over. I was in good shape. I knew I always had a chance to come back. That’s how the business works. I knew the system. I stayed home and kept working on what I needed to work on until I got that call.”
That faith paid off when that call came on a Wednesday while he was playing in that touch football game.
“I was having fun playing ball with the guys, and I got that call from Virginia,” Harris said. “That’s where everything goes down. They told me to keep my phone close, so that was a good sign. They called me back the next morning to bring me back to the practice.”
If Harris could have run to Virginia, he would have. He tried to take a flight out of Duluth that day, but heavy storms cancelled all flights to Washington, D.C.
He had to catch a shuttle to the Twin Cities, and his flight finally arrived in D.C., at 3 a.m.
“It was hectic,” Harris said. “I had practice that day, so I barely got any sleep.”
On the practice squad, Harris helps the first-team offense go against the defensive looks they will see in their upcoming game.
“You read a card and do what they tell you to do,” Harris said. “We’ll be running some of the Bears’ defense, with the Redskins running their offense. I play the position they want me to play based on my body type.
“You always have to perform at a high level. You can’t lollygag around. It’s a normal practice. I keep working on my craft. We’re there to help each other get better.”
According to Harris, the team has been suffering through some injuries at the moment.
He hasn’t received that call yet to join the 52-man roster, but he’ll be ready if he does get that nod.
“I’m staying ready, staying at the top of my game in case they might need me,” Harris said. “When my time comes, I’ll be ready. I keep working on my craft in the hopes that time comes soon.”