California’s Chris Harper has been the leading receiver for one of the most prolific passing attacks this season, but throughout his career, the routes he’s taken haven’t always been so smooth.
“I feel like I’ve been an underdog all my life,” Harper said. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder.”
Harper ended up accepting an offer from Southern Methodist University, but shortly after he committed, he went to visit California, his dream college. The Golden Bears’ coaches were so impressed with Harper, they immediately offered him a scholarship, which he eagerly accepted.
“It was one of the greatest feelings in the world,” Harper said on the California scholarship.
Harper wasn’t just impressed with California’s football program, though. In fact, when Harper refers to the great feeling he had getting that scholarship, he immediately references California’s pristine academic reputation.
“If football ever doesn’t work out for me,” Harper said, “I just know that I have an education to fall back on. I have a back up plan.”
So far, Harper’s first plan has worked out pretty well. As a true freshman in 2012, he caught 41 passes for 544 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu remembers playing against Harper last year, and the Ducks cornerback says he’ll be watching out for Harper when they square off on Saturday.
“He was a pretty good receiver last year when I went against him,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “All-around, I think he’s a great athlete and he makes plays on the ball.”
Harper says he’s still not satisfied after his breakout first year. Even through his first three games of this season – he’s caught 21 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns – he’s still looking forward. And the individual accolades are just a part of his overall goals.
“I’m always trying to get into the end zone and getting into the end zone will help the offense,” he said. “Any goal I have personally always goes into a bigger picture in the offense.”
Bears running back Brendan Bigelow says he loves being around Harper, even though Harper always beats him in video games. Bigelow also notes how impressed he is with Harper on the field.
“He’s a great player, a great wide receiver,” Bigelow said. “Overall, he’s just a good guy.”
Harper might find it hard to complain about where he currently is. He’s the leading receiver for one of the nation’s best passing teams. When he’s not on the field, he’s walking around the campus of his dream school taking classes that will help provide another career option if the NFL – his ultimate dream destination – doesn’t work out.
Wherever he end ups, Harper expresses total confidence in the route he’s running.