‘I’m a savage’: Miami Dolphins’ pick Charles Harris quickly comes on strong

Missouri’s Charles Harris sacks Daniel Epperson of Delaware State on Sept. 24, 2016, in Columbia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

 

General Manager Chris Grier said the Dolphins purposely played it cool when it came to doing their homework on Missouri’s Charles Harris.

They didn’t want to tip off other NFL teams on their find.

Somewhere, today, Harris ought to be laughing about that. It wasn’t that long ago that he didn’t have to work at being anonymous. College recruiters barely had a clue who he was, yet in a handful of years, he has molded himself into a first-round draft pick.

Harris had been a basketball player at Lincoln Prep in Kansas City, switching to football as a junior only to prove he’s not “weak” or “soft.”

Nobody’s calling him soft now, least of all Harris himself, who moments after being drafted by the Dolphins talked about wanting to “dominate” on the NFL level.

“The strengths of my game, you obviously see it on film,” he said. “I get to the quarterback. I’m going to cause pressure, without a doubt. I’m going to get to the quarterback. That’s the thing about it. Pass rushing isn’t like other positions like DBs, receivers and quarterbacks where you have to learn shifts and other stuff. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’ve got in your heart. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got heart. I’ve got a drive that’s nasty.”

He said he’s eager to play either linebacker or defensive end (where the Dolphins list him).

The Dolphins were so eager to land Harris, they pretended not to be eager at all.

“We tried to stay away from him purposely,” Grier said. “Again, I know everyone looks for how everyone is doing things and trying to figure out who is coming where and stuff. This is a player that we really, really liked, and are excited to have him.”

Harris knows a thing or two about pressure. At Missouri, he was at Defensive Line U. of sorts. The school has had eight defensive linemen drafted since 2009, including four in the first round, most recently Shane Ray in 2015. You step into that meeting room, you’re going to get criticized, and Harris was no different.

But seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore tend to shut up critics. But the bumpy ride wasn’t over. His line coach, Craig Kuligowski, left to join Mark Richt’s staff at the University of Miami, which disappointed Harris.

Jackie Shipp — a former Dolphins first-round pick — began last season as the Tigers’ defensive line coach but was fired before the season ended. Under Kuligowski, the focus was on aggression. Under Shipp, it was read-and-react. Harris started the season slow but eventually adapted and finished the season strong.

“It was pretty tough,” Harris told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of his indoctrination. “But I’m a savage, so I can adjust to any type of coaching staff. … So I had a new coach. I had a new coordinator. I couldn’t cry about it.”

Harris’ father, William, was more blunt, telling The Kansas City Star, “Me and my wife, we talk about it all the time, but if (the scheme) wasn’t broken, why try to fix it?”

Harris had 61 tackles and nine sacks last season before opting to enter the draft early.

Harris was correctly projected as a late-first pick, which was light years from where he was moving up to the college level. Recruiting sites didn’t even have a profile for him. If it weren’t for Missouri, he may have ended up at Northern Iowa or Missouri Western.

For someone known as a fiend in the weight room, Harris isn’t only about football. He’s on track to a degree in health sciences and joined a protest group at Missouri called Concerned Student 1950, which pressured the university system president out following racial incidents on the campus.

“We feel we’re so different but we’re all the same,” Harris told the Post-Dispatch.

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