Jerry Rice’s cousin interests Packers
By Bill Huber
Posted Apr 16, 2009
South Dakota State receiver JaRon Harris, whose dad was drafted by the Vikings, grew up a Packers fan. Harris, who caught 70 passes as a senior and is a proven kickoff returner, could be of interest late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.
That JaRon Harris is a receiver prospect that interests the Packers probably will produce a shrug of the shoulders from even the most devout draftnik.
That Harris’ dad, Ron, was an 11th-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 1978 probably will induce a yawn, as well.
So, maybe this will peek your interest: Harris’ second-cousin is arguably the greatest player in NFL history, Jerry Rice.
Harris produced 70 catches for 966 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior season at South Dakota State, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (aka Division I-AA).
“It runs in the family a little bit,” he said of his athletic genes.
The 6-foot-1 Harris ran his 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds with a 34-inch vertical jump at his pro day, which the Packers were scheduled to attend but canceled at the last minute. The 40 time came on a fast track and would equate to roughly a 4.5 on grass.
Harris says the strength of his game is running “crisp routes and not having a whole lot of drops.” He said his blocking has improved, and he’s a proven kickoff returner who averaged 23.2 yards as a senior and 33.3 yards with one touchdown as a freshman. He downplayed concerns that his production was the byproduct of playing against subpar competition.
“It’s still Division I, you know?” he said. “That’s what I’d say. Even though it was I-AA, I think it was pretty good competition. They can judge however they want. They can watch film and see how I did and judge for themselves.”
Even though his dad was a star at Colorado State who spent parts of preseasons in Minnesota and Chicago before playing in Canada for a few years, Harris didn’t begin playing football until his senior year in high school. Before that, he was a sprinter who ran the fastest 100-meter time in South Dakota high school history.
Even with his late start in football, he considers his dad to be a big influence.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Harris said. “He was a running back, so we were different positions obviously, but he just said be great at it and be the best you can be. Hopefully, I showed that enough to get to the next level.”
Harris says he’s never met Rice but the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns has been one of his mentors. Rice and Harris have connected through letters, and, for obvious reasons, Rice was one player Harris studied.
“Oh, yeah, of course. One of the greatest ever,” Harris said. “Every receiver models their game after someone like that. I definitely enjoyed watching him growing up.”
While his dad played briefly for the Vikings and Bears, Harris would love to get a chance in Green Bay. If he lands here, he’d be battling Brett Swain (seventh round, 2008), Jake Allen (undrafted, 2008; spent season on practice squad) and Lorne Sam (undrafted, 2007; 2008 practice-squad addition) for a shot at a roster spot.
“Yeah, actually, my favorite team was the Packers,” he said. “Funny story about that is my mom was a huge Vikings fan, so I just wanted to butt heads with her when I was little. If the Packers won, I’d rub it in her face a little bit. So, we’d ride each other a little bit.”