Aug. 28, 2012
By Mark Janssen
The taste of the Cotton Bowl is still a nasty bitter one to Kansas State receiver Chris Harper.
“The worst game of my life,” he recalls. “Collin was throwing the ball well, but we weren’t making plays because of dropped balls. I think I had three drops. (Pause) It was the worst game of my life.”
The result was a 29-16 loss to Arkansas with Harper’s stat line reading one catch for 11 yards.
“I don’t know what it was, but I hadn’t had three drops all year,” said Harper, who led the team in receptions with 40 for 547 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. “I had never played in a dome before, but that’s only an excuse. I just didn’t handle things right and had a pitiful game.”
With that in mind, the first snap of Saturday’s 2012 opener against Missouri State at 6:10 p.m., at Bill Snyder Family Stadium can’t come soon enough for Harper, who says he’s more comfortable than ever at his wide receiver position.
Harper was a four-star talent out of Wichita Northwest High School where he was ranked as the second-best prep player in Kansas and the 14th-best quarterback in the nation.
Choosing Oregon out of high school, Harper became the Ducks’ first player in eight seasons to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season, but there was little else to get excited about. It was a year when he started the season as a quarterback, but, after the fifth week, he became a wide receiver.
Realizing he wanted to play closer to home, Harper transferred to K-State in 2009 when he sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules, and he then restarted his career in 2010 by catching 25 balls for 330 yards and four touchdowns.
“We’re more traditional and disciplined,” Harper said of the K-State program as compared to Oregon’s. “It has been good because I’ve gained a little bit of both in terms of fundamentals and discipline for the game and life.”
He adds of being a permanent wide out, “It has taken time for me to really be comfortable at the position.”
He laughs as he explained where the biggest adjustment had to come: “When you’re a receiver, it’s like being on a cross country team around here. As a receiver you’re running all the time.”
Run is something that the 6-foot-1, 229-pound Harper can do as he was clocked at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard-dash during K-State’s pro day last spring.
“My problem is playing as fast as I can run,” said Harper. “For me, it’s partially been just trying to figure out the position. I’m still trying to learn all the intricacies of the position that you don’t fully grasp until you’ve played the position for a while.”
Receiver coach Michael Smith said of Harper’s growth as a receiver, “In the last couple years, he’s tried to depend on his athletic ability to get him through things, but in the last year, he’s learned how to be the type of receiver he wants to be. He’s spent the extra time trying to master the craft of being a good route runner, blocking out of the position and learning some of the nuances or reading zones and man-matchups.”
Playing the last 26 games at receiver, Harper says he’s ready for a banner finale at K-State with some unique goals in mind.
“I want 1,000 (receiving) yards,” Harper said, “but I hope that doesn’t necessarily mean more catches. The same number of catches with 1,000 yards would mean more longer and explosive plays, which would be good for the team.
“I pride myself on my speed,” Harper said. “Even though some look at me as only a possession-type of guy, I definitely think I have a lot of explosion to my game.”
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.