The Amazing Mr. Harris
In the defense-challenged Western Athletic Conference, where offensive statistics often invite skepticism, the numbers put up by Wyoming wide receiver Marcus Harris demand respect. Harris is averaging 132.8 receiving yards per game, third in the nation, having caught 68 passes for 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 8-0 Cowboys. He is on pace for 94 receptions and 1,460 receiving yards, which would make him the first receiver and seventh player in Division I-A history to reach 1,400 yards three times in his career.
"He does it even though teams know the ball is probably coming to him a good 10 to 15 times a game," says Wyoming offensive coordinator Larry Korpitz. "But Marcus has a way of making sure opposing players don't get too close to him."
Maintaining a comfortable distance from others has been Harris's gift on the field, and his curse off it. Since 1988 his parents, Ronald and Mona, have taken dozens of foster children into their Minneapolis home. Harris at first welcomed the arrangement, then soured on it. "There was this one girl," Harris says of a three-year-old who spent about a year with his family. "She grew very attached to us. But one day her aunt came to our house to take her away. It's amazing what kids understand. She hid. My mom said, 'Marcus, go get her.' And because the girl loved me and trusted me, she came out of hiding with open arms. Then I was forced to give her up. It was like I tricked her, and that hurt me deeply. I lost my faith in the system."
Of the children who have passed through his parents' home over the years, Harris has become close to just one, Shane, an eight-year-old whom the family has adopted. But Harris still has an affinity for kids in general. He is an elementary-education major. But for his impending career in the NFL, he would love to be a third-grade teacher. "You can still influence kids at that age," he says. "By fourth and fifth grade they start thinking they know a little too much."
At 6'2" and 216 pounds, Harris, who briefly considered turning pro after last season, has the size and finesse that NFL personnel directors seek. Last spring he was projected as a late first-or early second-round pick had he left early. He stayed in school, and now he looks like a mid-to-late-first-round pick.