Q&A with Miami's Brandon Harris

Lots of the cornerback talk leading up to April's draft centers around LSU's Patrick Peterson, who some believe could have the best NFL career out of any player in the draft. Peterson played his high school ball in Miami and one of his counterparts, University of Miami's Brandon Harris, will be joining him in the first round.

Harris, like Peterson, declared for the draft following his junior year. PFW's third-ranked cornerback, Harris spoke to PFW about how his career in football began at quarterback, what teams always ask him about and how he would feel about leaving sunny Florida to play football in cold weather.

In PFW's 2011 Draft Preview book, draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki says Harris "possesses natural cover skills, a balanced skill set and a professional makeup that should enable him to become a solid, dependable starter."

PFW: What made you come out early?
Harris: It was a combination of where I stand academically as far as being close to my degree, I was one semester away, and feeling that I progressed so much over my college career. After sitting down and talking to my parents and talking about the opportunity, we all agreed. As a child growing up you always want to make it to the NFL. Being so close to achieving that, why wait another year? Why not just go out right now?

PFW: What was your pro-day experience like?
Harris: The experience was fun. It was a lot different than the (NFL Scouting) Combine because you can perform on your own field, the field you practiced on the last three years and get a chance to be in front of your friends and families. They can come out and support you. It was a lot of fun — a lot of motivation and a lot of emotions running high. I think I did well. I got a lot of great feedback from scouts at the pro day. They were very pleased about the way I worked out. A lot of them commented on how energetic I looked and how clean my drills were. That made me realize that my hard work has really started to pay off.

PFW: Who were some of your role models growing up?
Harris: Role models for me were guys that I was always around. I have an older brother who played football in front of me. We are four years apart and I watched him play high school, but he wasn't able to go on to the college level to play due to his size. I have another friend who played with me in high school and also played with me at Miami. His name is Chavez Grant, he is another role model for me that I look up to. He played the corner position and showed me the ropes at the position. That is a guy that I still lean on for support.

PFW: Which cornerbacks in the pros have you molded yourself after?
Harris: It's actually funny you asked that. Growing up, I played quarterback, starting at 6 years old up to my junior season in high school when I transformed into a defensive back. I didn't really start looking at defensive backs until I got to college. I look at the newer guys like Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. I'm very impressed with the way they play. Those are the guys I watch because I wasn't playing the position when I could watch guys like Deion Sanders.

PFW: What's one thing teams seemed concerned about and have asked you about often?
Harris: They want to know how comfortable I am in a backpedal. How can I cover receivers in the NFL from an off position playing man-to-man? In our scheme in Miami, we played a lot of press technique, right in guys' faces. In the NFL, you run press coverage, but not as often. A lot of it is backing up six yards and being able to backpedal and using your footwork. They want to know if I can do it. I didn't do it in college, not because I was weak at it, but because I was doing what my team wanted me to do.

PFW: What are your thoughts on two of the other top corners in this draft, LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara?
Harris: Those are two of the best you'll see. Patrick, I've watched for a while, we've been good friends for a while. He's from the South Florida area so we gained a relationship as two of the top cornerbacks in the country. We were real close to each other and were able to hang out a lot. Prince is another good guy and another bigger corner. They're big, physical guys, over six feet tall, 200-plus pounds. They're big guys, you don't get a lot of corners that big.

PFW: What do you want teams to know that will separate you from the other corners in this draft?
Harris: The main thing I stressed to all the teams is how versatile I am in the defensive secondary, how mentally strong I am and how football-smart I am. I want them to know that I know football, I know schemes and I know what's happening on the offensive side of the ball. I played nickel back in college and I also played outside corner — those are two positions I can contribute to right away. Scouts like the fact that I can do multiple things and that I actually know what's going on. My football IQ is very high and they were impressed by that.

PFW: You've played football in Miami throughout your career, how would you feel if you have to play for a cold-weather team?
Harris: I'm looking forward to it. I've always wanted to see what it's like to live outside Miami. I got a quick feel of that training for the Combine in Dallas. I loved it. It was new and different for me. Being away from home is something I want to embrace and it's something I'm looking forward to. I think it will be a lot of fun. It's something (where) you can come back home and share the experience with your family and friends.

PFW: Your teammate opposite you on the practice field, WR Leonard Hankerson, also will be drafted. How significant has it been to work with him in practice to get ready for the NFL?
Harris: For the past three years we've been going at each other's throats in practice every day. We've been pushing each other, making each other better and getting the best out of each other. I want him to come out as the top receiver and he wants me to come out as the best defensive back. We're just motivating each other and reminding each other of all the hard work we put in.

PFW: With everything going on with the lockout and the possibility of players boycotting the draft, what advice have you gotten as to where you should be on the night of the draft?
Harris: The only advice I've been seeking is from fellow Canes, guys who have been in that position, been there and done that. They said go with what you feel, go with your heart, don't worry about the press and all the media what's going on out there. They say just do what you've been doing; the draft will take care of itself wherever you decide to be at. Go to the place that's most comfortable for you where you can just relax and enjoy the moment.

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