Free Agency

John Dorsey reunites with TE Demetrius Harris years after unearthing him on scouting trail

Demetrius Harris took a path to the NFL that was once seen as unorthodox, but is becoming more common in recent years.

Harris turned college basketball into professional football.

It's not the first time a college hooper has pivoted to football, but it might be the first that happened mainly via word of mouth. Take it from Browns general manager John Dorsey, who was tipped off to the existence of Harris while in the lobby of a hotel back when he was working for the Green Bay Packers.

"We were down at Little Rock, Arkansas, and we're at the Peabody Hotel," Dorsey recalled during a Thursday appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily. "We're sitting in the lobby, and it was myself, (former Packers GM) Ted Thompson and I think (current Seahawks GM) John Schneider was there, too. We were at an all-star game, it was the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game back then.

"We were just sitting there after practice and we just had conversation and those guys left and next thing you know, there was a gentleman who I started talking to and we started talking and ... he goes 'you know, there's a player that plays basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was an all-state wide receiver and he could've gone anywhere in the SEC to play football.'

"So I said 'what's his name?' And he goes 'it's Demetrius Harris.' So I wrote it down in my Franklin planner and two years later it popped up, the date of the Franklin planner pops it up. And then, now I was with Kansas City, so I sent a scout out there to work him out because I knew he was a mid-major basketball guy. So then you send the scout out there to work him out and the guy's 6-5, he's about 250, he's running 4.53, 4.54 and I'm just going 'OK boys, we're going to sign this one as a college free agent.' And so what you did is we signed him and you basically give him a redshirt year and put him on the practice squad and let him develop for a year.

Take a look at photos of three of the newest Browns: tight end Demetrius Harris, offensive lineman Eric Kush and linebacker Adarius Taylor.

"What he's done is phenomenal because he's gone from basketball player to where he is today. And he's a professional football player now and that's a credit to him."

Harris' name likely popped up during Dorsey's stay in Little Rock because the tight end is a native of Jacksonville, Arkansas, a town just north of Little Rock. And as the man Dorsey met in Little Rock said, Harris had some experience with a football, catching nine touchdown passes (to go along with 738 yards) and recording four interceptions at safety as a senior at Jacksonville High School, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. He even went so far as signing to play football at Arkansas State before a failure to qualify academically diverted his course to UW-Milwaukee.

Granted a second chance to pursue his NFL dreams, Harris took advantage of the professional redshirt year and blossomed in his third, fourth and fifth seasons, finding the end zone five times in that span while recording 47 of his career 57 receptions. All but 94 of his 605 career receiving yards came in that stretch of time, all spent playing alongside (or behind) star Travis Kelce.

"I just learned so much from Kelce" Harris said Thursday. "That's my guy. We're close. And he learned stuff from me. We built a strong relationship over the years. We actually came in the league together, but he was drafted and I was undrafted. We were always roommates at away games, so we built a strong relationship. 

"(Cleveland is) most definitely a better opportunity. I just wanted a fresh start. I felt like I needed a fresh start. I'm just ready to start this new chapter."

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