Tommie Harris has played in every big game imaginable. The annual Red River Rivalry, BCS Championship Games, the Rose Bowl, NFL playoff games and, of course, Super Bowl XLI.
But on Friday, Harris was back to a place where things got started. He took a few minutes to contemplate and reminisce about his time as an Ellison Eagle at Leo Buckley Stadium during the 5th Annual Football/Cheer Camp and Combine and took it all in.
Harris sat in the southwest corner wearing a gray camp T-shirt, black and white shorts, a navy blue New York Yankees hat and shades. And he looked to the railroad tracks on his right.
“Playing at Leo Buckley, there’s that train,” Harris said. “You always look forward to hearing that train come by to get you some momentum.”
The memory was fitting for a man who’s job as a defensive tackle included sacrificing his stats and body to make sure the line of scrimmage resembled a train wreck, allowing guys like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to make plays.
Harris announced his retirement from the NFL during a fifth-grade graduation ceremony at Cedar Valley Elementary School last month.
Harris, along with former Shoemaker star and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller, former Harker Heights standout Dominique Ziegler and former Killeen High star Juaquin Iglesias founded the camp and come back home to give back to local kids.
“It’s amazing,” Harris said about the kids. “That’s what makes it all worth it. The smiles and the hugs and the thank-yous, that’s what makes it all worth it. We want to push the issue on the guys that come out of Killeen and any Central Texas area. You have something that you can never retire from, giving, and we’re doing that big in Killeen, Texas.”
Before the Super Bowl and before he was an anchor for Bob Stoops’ crimson-and-cream-clad dominating defenses at Oklahoma in the early 2000’s, Harris established himself as one of the top high school football prospects in Central Texas.
He was credited with 70 solo tackles and nine sacks as a senior at Ellison. Harris said he would like to work to build mentoring programs for the area high schools.
“We’re feeding off this positive momentum, but we want to get into mentorships, tutoring and different things we can do for kids outside of one or two days out of the year,” Harris said.
Harris went on to become a star in Norman and the third Sooner to win the Lombardi Award. A lineman who, in addition to his performance on the field, best exemplifies the discipline of legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
The Bears drafted Harris with the 14th overall selection in the 2004 draft. He played for Chicago for seven seasons, earned three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2005 through 2007 and wrapped up his career with one season in San Diego in 2011.
He totaled 226 tackles, including 182 solo tackles and 31.5 sacks. Now that his pro career is over, Harris looks forward to spending more time in Killeen.
“It’s great to finally now have it a part of my routine, my yearly routine,” Harris said. “We hope to continue to keep going.”
Harris has been a player for most of his life, now he turns his attention to other pursuits, including owning his own team.
It was reported earlier this summer that Harris, along with former Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams cornerback Eric Bassey are the first owners of a team in the Fall Experimental Football League.
“It’s living a dream,” Harris said. “It’s starting small and working its way up. Just getting experience, that’s what’s important, and being an owner that I would have wanted. I think that’s the biggest thing I can bring to the table.”
The team will be based in Austin for the non-NFL affiliated league. The FXFL plans six games in October and November in six cities.
Harris is living the dream of many football fans, owning their own franchise. Even if he is a Sooner in the heart of Texas Longhorn country.
“I don’t have to remind them, they remind me everywhere that I go,” Harris joked. “I love UT, I love TCU, I love anywhere guys get an opportunity to compete and take care of their families.”