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Photo courtesy Leah Hughes

Meet Denver Broncos Cornerback and Dad Chris Harris Jr.

The Home Team!

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He’s the Denver Broncos cornerback who prompted Coloradans to jump to their feet and scream when he caught an interception against the Oakland Raiders and ran for a 74-yard touchdown in October. He’s also the cornerback who led the Broncos defense in making fearless plays against big-name quarterbacks, including Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, a critical strategy in the Broncos Super Bowl win.

But he’s also the guy who kneels down on the pavement to draw with sidewalk chalk alongside his 16-month-old daughter, Aria, and prays with her every night before bedtime. Little Aria may not fully understand what it means to be a Super Bowl Champion, but she knows her dad, Chris Harris Jr., is a champion at home.

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Harris at Home

Together, Harris and Aria play with balls, chase the dogs through the family’s expansive back yard and clutter the floor with toys. Harris knows Aria’s daily routines well. During the off-season, he trains in the morning and then takes over at home so his wife Leah can rest. She is pregnant with their second child, another girl, due in June.

“I am involved. I want my daughters to know that I love them and that I can protect them, and they can talk to me about things,” Harris says.

Leah Harris said fatherhood came naturally to her husband. “He was nervous about having a girl, but he is so great with Aria,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better dad for my kids.”

Growing up, Harris enjoyed time with his own dad. They watched movies and listened to music together. “He taught me that there was time for fun, but there was also time to be disciplined,” Harris says. “His influence helped me to get where I am now.”

Helping Other Children

The Harris family has made helping other children a priority through the Chris Harris, Jr. Foundation. When he was younger, Harris’s high school team helped out in the neighborhood. That’s where he “grew a heart” to continue to work in the community.

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“Now I’m blessed with a bigger platform and I can do things my way,” he says. “I preach education first. But then I try to have fun and show them some love.”

Despite his professional and personal successes, Harris has always felt like an underdog. Coaches overlooked him in the 2011 National Football League draft, but he continued his training and the Broncos eventually invited him to training camp. Coaches took notice of his performance there and gave him a chance. In turn, his foundation focuses on supporting “underdogs” through various charitable activities.

Each summer Harris hosts a free Underdog Football Skills Academy in Denver and in his hometown of Tulsa. He has spoken out against domestic violence through the Domestic Violence Information System and has partnered with The Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He and Leah take children shopping, enjoy pizza parties and have provided Thanksgiving dinners to those in need.

Harris says he loves playing for the Broncos. “The diehard fans here are awesome,” he says. He doesn’t take his celebrity role lightly, and constantly keeps in mind his own daughter and the other kids who look up to him.

“I feel a responsibility to be a good example,” he says, “both on and off the field.”

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Michelle Ancell is a Denver-based writer and mother.

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