ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Shelby Harris made his first NFL start memorable with a fantastic finish .
The third-year defensive end from Illinois State has been waived six times in his NFL career that consisted of eight games and a dozen tackles before this week.
He capped his Denver debut by blocking the game-tying field goal with a second left to preserve the Broncos’ 24-21 win over the Chargers on Monday night.
Harris swears he’s moved on to facing the Dallas Cowboys and their all-star offensive line Sunday, but he seemingly hasn’t stopped smiling since his game-saving play.
“I’m just riding the wave. You might as well just call me a surf-boarder,” Harris said through a wide smile Thursday. “I’m having the time of my life right now.”
And why not? Harris was cut four times by the Raiders between 2014 and ’15. Last year he was cut by the Jets and the Cowboys before he signed a futures contract with the Broncos in January to absolutely no fanfare.
Harris, however, capitalized on a spate of injuries along the D-line with a terrific training camp and stellar preseason and he was named the starter with Jared Crick (back) out for the opener against the Chargers.
“Oh man, he’s been a bright spot, a guy that nobody really even saw making the team probably early and then he kind of took over,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (no relation). “With Crick being out, I think he stepped up and kind of took over the job.”
Rookie Younghoe Koo’s first attempt from 44 yards sailed through the uprights, but Broncos coach Vance Joseph had called timeout.
“I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to overtime. Oh wait, it was a timeout? OK, cool,'” Harris recounted. “It’s another chance to block the kick, another chance for him to miss. Another chance for anything to happen. So, yeah, I’ll definitely agree with icing the kicker. Good job, coach!”
Chargers QB Philp Rivers lamented that Koo nailed his do-over, too, kicking it right down the middle. Only, Harris was in the way. He didn’t even have to jump. He just reached up and got three fingers on the football, which fluttered away harmlessly before the Broncos dog-piled Harris.
“He’s been batting balls like that all through OTAs and training camp, so I wasn’t surprised that he was the one that blocked it,” Chris Harris said.
What a comeback story, too.
“I didn’t even know he’s been cut six times,” Chris Harris said. “That’s amazing.”
“It’s called I have a family to support,” said Harris , who has a wife, a son and a daughter. “No man, if you really love the game … then getting cut six times won’t matter because you know deep in your heart that you’re good enough to play in this league.”
Harris said he thought about going back to school and getting his degree last year when he couldn’t get on anyone’s active roster.
“I honestly at one point contemplating quitting. I was like, man, like I’m done,” Harris said. “I had a workout with San Diego last year, I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is really for me.’ But then my wife was like, ‘This is what you do. This is what you love doing.’
“And when she said that I just had to get back into it and you know I guess she was right.”
Harris is a semester shy of getting his degree in criminal justice. Then, law school beckons.
“I’ve got big dreams,” he said. “Big dreams.”
But they’re on hold for the moment.
“Oh yeah, for now it’s football,” he said, “and hopefully for a while it’s football.”
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton