By Mark Janssen
Chris Harper is the first to admit, "A lot of it was me. I had just turned 18 and thought I was grown. I thought I would be all right, but I wasn't ready for being away from home. I realized that family's not all bad."
Harper was in the process of graduating from Wichita Northwest High School as a PrepStar All-American and a 4-Star talent on the football field where he was ranked as the second best player in Kansas.
Life was fine on the field as the 6-foot-1, 234-pound quarterback/wide receiver became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. He played as a quarterback for the first five games, but was then moved to wide receiver for the rest of the season.
"I enjoyed the football," said Harper, who had single-game highs of 60 rushing yards against Washington, five catches for 85 yards against Arizona State, and 4-of-6 passing for 40 yards against Utah State.
And, the Ducks won: 10-3, ranked No. 9, and a 42-31 victory over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl in 2008.
But there's that key word ... holiday.
"Around Thanksgiving and Christmas was the time I started to waiver," said Harper. "I really missed my family. They came to a lot of my games, but it wasn't the same. I missed being around them, and other family members and friends."
Harper, a Wildcat sophomore in eligibility, had been recruited by coach Bill Snyder in his early high school days, and with the legendary coach back in charge of the Wildcat program, he made the move with last fall being a redshirt season in the K-State camp.
"I knew coach Snyder and I knew coach (Michael) Smith, so I knew what to expect," said Harper.
While the Ducks won the Pac 10 championship last year, and remain unbeaten this year without Harper, he's not second guessing himself on his decision to be a Wildcat.
Through the first five games, Harper was in the four-man rotation for three wide receiver positions and is now part of a three-man collection for the trio of pass catching positions.
Harper has five catches for 50 yards and one touchdown to his credit this season to rank as K-State's fifth leading receiver. That ranks only behind Aubrey Quarles (15 catches, 221 yards, 2 TDs), the sidelined Brodrick Smith (14 catches, 191 yards, 3 TDs), Tramaine Thompson (10 catches 154 yards), plus Daniel Thomas out of the backfield (12 catches, 29 yards).
While enjoying his receiving role, and looking forward to being even more of a factor for the rest of the season, Harper admits that he misses some aspects of being the quarterback: "I miss having the ball in my hands. I enjoyed the chance to be a playmaker on every play as a quarterback. That's a selfish thing, and I'm not complaining at all, but I do miss the aspect of having the ball in my hands."