The Cliff Harris who met the waiting media on Tuesday after practice was a far different young man than the one who was an All-American at Oregon in his sophomore season, a player who was as explosive as any in the nation, who led the country in passes defended, scored four touchdowns on punt returns while averaging a whopping 18.8 yards per return for the Ducks.
But after a series of off-the-field problems -- driving violations, drug possession -- he was kicked off the Oregon team and had his collegiate career ended after just 27 games.
A kid who once was just as colorful off the field as he was on it -- he was once quoted as calling himself "the cheese on top of the nachos" -- was entirely different in front of the Philadelphia media on Tuesday.
He has been humbled, having been bypassed in the April draft. His professional career is about overcoming the odds, because not a whole lot of non-drafted players make it, considering all of the numbers. You read up on Harris and the critics at Oregon lashed out at Harris for his tackling, and his inconsistency and the showy manner in which he conducted himself.
In the NFL, Harris is just another talented kid. With the Eagles, he's trying to make the roster at cornerback, a position loaded with talent and high draft picks and investments. Harris cost the Eagles nothing except a post-draft contract and the promise that he would conduct himself the right way.
"It's a sense of urgency whether you're catching up or whether you're trying to stay on this team and play in the NFL," said Harris. "There's always a sense of urgency when you want to be a great player.
"I just to get out here and get better every day. Come out here, work hard and try to get better at your craft."
Harris is catching up because he missed all of the Organized Team Activities as his Oregon class had yet to graduate. Harris said he is "humble and thankful" that the Eagles took a chance on him, that the Eagles gave him a chance to prove that he's grown up and that he will do what it takes to be an NFL player.
The question is this: Can Harris crack a roster that should include as many as five cornerbacks. You can put it in pen that Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will make the team. Joselio Hanson is a veteran professional. Brandon Boykin is a high draft pick and a promising talent. Curtis Marsh was a third-round draft pick a year ago. Brandon Hughes has time in the NFL, in a game that meant something.
Harris is just another terrific talent who made mistakes in college and who says he learned from the bad decisions. It's time for him to mature as a young man and as a player.
"I'm just another player out here trying to make the roster that's working hard," said Harris.
He certainly gets the picture. When the Eagles signed him, they told Harris that they understood that what he did in college was in the past, and that he would get a fair chance to prove himself here.
"I was young at the time and I made some young mistakes and I've matured from it," said Harris.
Now all he has to do is make the football team. Harris is off to a great start. He picked off a pair of passes on Monday afternoon and showed the kind of athleticism that the Eagles saw in him. He is quick to the ball in the Asante Samuel mold and, based on what Harris did in college, there are few as explosive when he has the football in his hands.
After Wednesday, though, the reps will be cut way down as the veterans arrive and hog the playing time. Harris has to play superb football day after day and then hope it's good enough to make the 53-man roster.
The past is the past for Harris, who wants to prove that his future is every bit as bright after a couple of troublesome years.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- So much for the idea that the Eagles will add tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who worked out for the team on Tuesday. Shiancoe signed a one-year deal with New England later in the day.
- Michael Vick had a strong two days and will now wait for the veterans to practice on Thursday. He looked very sharp in the red zone on Tuesday.
- I am impressed with Vinny Curry's burst off the edge. He looks good getting up the field.
- Fifth-round draft pick Dennis Kelly has really improved since his early days as an Eagle. He's playing right tackle and has much better footwork and leverage in these practices.
- Mychal Kendricks does not appear to be the least bit hindered by a bruised knee that he's had since the spring. He looks terrific in coverage.