It's Been a Happy Return for Virginia Tech's Harris

Cornerback Macho Harris spurned the NFL to return to Virginia Tech, a decision he doesn't regret. He again was named to the all-ACC first team.
Cornerback Macho Harris spurned the NFL to return to Virginia Tech, a decision he doesn't regret. He again was named to the all-ACC first team. (By Steve Helber -- Associated Press)
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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- On a Monday morning earlier this season, Virginia Tech cornerback Macho Harris was supposed to wake up at 6:45. Around 3:40 a.m., Harris received a call from former teammate and Kansas City Chiefs rookie Brandon Flowers, a cornerback who skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Flowers called from a nightclub with a message for the groggy Harris.

"I'm loving this life!" Flowers told Harris.

"I bet you are," Harris responded. "But I got meetings in the morning!"

Only in those fleeting moments does Harris even allow himself to think about next season, or what could have been had he kept his name in the draft instead of pulling out to return to Virginia Tech for his senior year.

"Man, I'll probably be a millionaire," Harris said. "But then I'll be like: 'Man, get that out of your head. Focus. Focus on what you need to do.' Because I don't want to think about that stuff and let little opportunities slip away at Virginia Tech."

One of those opportunities is Virginia Tech's second consecutive ACC title, which is at stake Saturday when the Hokies play Boston College in the ACC championship game.

Harris experienced one of his more uneven games of the season in a 28-23 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 18. He basked in the triumph of an interception returned for a touchdown but also suffered the embarrassment of getting burned down the sideline for a score. Harris tried to forget about allowing the touchdown. He said if he were to focus on his miscues, it would create a lack of confidence.

"And I ain't lacking confidence," Harris said, which is no surprise to anyone who witnesses the bravado of a player who takes the field on offense, defense and special teams.

Harris's swagger made his return to Blacksburg for his senior season so revealing. Scouts, agents and coaches told him he was good enough for the NFL but that he needed to prove he could become more physical.

The Hokies moved Harris to boundary-side cornerback, a position in defensive coordinator Bud Foster's scheme that requires a significant amount of man-to-man coverage and calls for the cornerback to defend the run. Defensive backfield coach Torrian Gray, who thought Harris could benefit from one more year in college, has seen the progress.

"Hopefully, he makes himself a lot of money," Gray said. "You can't teach some of the things he does in terms of having great ball skills, being a tough guy. . . . I think he's really helped himself from a draft standpoint."

With two games to play, Harris has six interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns, and 42 tackles, good enough to earn first-team all-ACC honors for the second consecutive season. He also has eight catches for 63 yards and ranks second in the ACC in punt return average (10.4 yards per return).

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