University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball player Demetrius Harris is hoping to become the next Antonio Gates, converting his vast athleticism into usable football skills.
Gates went from starring on the basketball court at Kent State to emerging as a Pro Bowl tight end with the San Diego Chargers.
Harris visited the Ravens' training complex this week, meeting with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and tight ends coach Wade Harman.
"It was a good visit, I liked the people, liked the coaches. They seem really interested," Harris told The Baltimore Sun after returning to Milwaukee. "It's like a home environment at their offices. I love their organization. Their coaching staff is humble and confident. It was pretty cool to be there with the Super Bowl champs."
During his visit with the Ravens, it was pointed out to Harris that tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after this season. The Ravens have indicated they want to sign Pitta to a long-term deal.
"They were telling me that for a year I could learn under those guys and how they're free agents coming up and, if that happens, that's where I could come in and help the team," Harris said. "I just want a chance. I'm trying to do something. It's going good right now. It's been a busy month for me."
Harris has visited the Kansas City Chiefs and will visit the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday and conduct a Pro Day in Milwaukee with several teams scheduled to attend, including the Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chiefs, under new general manager John Dorsey, have displayed a lot of interest in Harris.
Harris is a 6-foot-5, 237-pound former Arkansas State football recruit who didn't qualify academically due to a low ACT score before enrolling at Mineral Area Community College, a Missouri junior college.
After attending Mineral Area, Harris was offered an opportunity to play both sports at Arkansas State. However, he opted to play basketball only in Wisconsin.
"I've been playing football since I was five years old," Harris said. "I can create mismatches because I'm athletic. My main position would be to play tight end, but need to work on my blocking."
Harris was 6 feet 4, 205 pounds coming out of high school growing up outside Little Rock, Ark., where he was an all-state wide receiver and basketball player who caught nine touchdowns with four interceptions at safety.
As a senior last season, Harris averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.
"I tell everyone he's a football player we tried to make a basketball player," UW-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said in a telephone interview. "When he came to us, he had only played four years of competitive basketball. He came in and you could tell his skill wasn't quite where it needed to be, but his athleticism was off the charts. He's a kid who really worked to become a better student and a better athlete and he has put himself in good position. It's exciting and he deserves this.
"He had an incredible knack for getting in passing lanes. He's incredibly gifted as an athlete. He led our team in deflections. Athletically, he ran the floor. He guarded wing players for us even though he was an inside player. Why not give a chance to a great kid, a very grounded kid. I really like Demetrius Harris."
Harris' gifts are obvious in physical testing. He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds with a 10-2 broad jump and a 36 1/2 inch vertical leap. Strength is something that needs work, bench pressing 225 pounds twice. However, strength can be improved. It's rare to be that big, fast and explosive.
"I'll be hitting the weights hard wherever I wind up," Harris said. "I've only been lifting weights since last year, so it's something I'm working on."
Training with NFL tight ends Dallas Clark and Dwayne Allen last week in Indianapolis, he gleaned some valuable tips.
Harris is regarded as a later-round draft target or a priority free agent.
"I'm excited going into the draft, I'm hoping I get drafted," Harris said. "If not, I'm pretty sure someone will sign me. I'm going to keep praying and stay humble."
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