By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
Tommie Harris Jr. isn't satisfied with just making dents. He wants to leave behind footprints that guide people, especially younger kids, to the same type of success that he has enjoyed.
On Saturday, the Ellison High School graduate, who plays professional football for the Chicago Bears, placed his permanent footprint in Killeen, the city that jump-started Harris' rise to the NFL.
Harris, along with family members, Mayor Timothy Hancock and several council members, cut the ribbon to the Tommie Harris Fitness Center, a major part of the new Lions Club Park Family Recreation and Senior Center. The Bears defensive tackle donated $165,000 for the equipment.
"I'm kind of speechless," said Harris, while he was taking a tour of the center. "I went through a lot and to have a fitness center named after me is just amazing. I just hope that I can continue to be a role model for the youth of Killeen."
The city also unveiled a billboard on U.S. Highway 190 at Killeen's eastern border. It advertises the Tommie Harris Fitness Center at Lions Club Park.
"It's about giving kids in Killeen a chance to look up to someone and say, 'That's what I want to do,'" said Brett Williams, Killeen Parks and Recreation director. "And it's not just making it, but what you do when you make it. That's important for society to know and understand."
The fitness center, located on the second floor of the recreation center, boasts a plethora of state-of-the-art exercise equipment ranging from treadmills to ellipticals.
If one isn't awed by the expansive view of Killeen through the glass windows, some sleek flat-screen TVs hang from the ceiling to provide other entertainment.
There also are several free weights and weight machines to choose from. A few Ellison and Killeen football players approved as they displayed their skills. Harris watched, and before long, rolled up the sleeves of his pink-and-white shirt and did a few reps himself, showing the kids how an all-pro does it.
"That was a great experience, something I won't ever forget," said Devon Hocutt, a freshman linebacker at Ellison.
Hocutt also approved of the facility.
"They've put a lot of work in this place, and I think it'll be a good thing for us to go and not only work out, but hang out."
In two corners of the center, encased in glass shelves, are tokens of Harris' biggest achievements: the MVP trophy of the California-Texas high school football game; his Lombardi award (given to the best college defensive lineman); and his Freshman of the Year award earned at Oklahoma.
Other amenities in the rec center include two basketball courts; an aerobics room with hardwood floors for all kinds of classes (spin, yoga, dance); a game room with Sony PlayStation 3's; two computers; an Xbox 360; a Nintendo Wii; a foosball table; and much more.
"It's cool," said Markus Carson, a sixth-grader at Liberty Hill. "It's a nice place. I'm going to use it a lot."
Hill had a "Tommie Harris #91" signature on the right shoulder of his shirt.
"There's something for everyone in this building," Williams added.
After Harris took a tour of the center by walking around the track, he signed several autographs and posed for pictures. He then gave a speech to the young athletes in attendance.
"This is a visual of what you can shoot for, of what you can achieve," the two-time Pro Bowler said. "What you do in your off time affects what you do in your on time. You have no excuse. You can't fail with this now. It's here, and we're going to make Killeen look good."
Harris said he loves coming back to Killeen, especially after spending most of his time in a big city. It reminds him of his roots and where he came from. Harris also added that he hopes this is just the beginning of his involvement in Killeen.
"This is my upbringing," he said. "This is where I learned to become a man, who I am. Through bad times, good times, trial and error, I owe a lot to Killeen, and I love this place.
"This is just a little bit of things to come."
Contact Evan Mohl at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.