After playing four seasons of college basketball at Penn State, forward Ross Travis decided to give pro football a shot. While the 6-foot-7 Minnesota native was seen as having the build and athleticism required to give such a transition a chance, he hadn’t played football since his freshman year of high school.
Given the lack of experience it came as no surprise that Travis wasn’t taken in this spring’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t keep him from working towards the goal of landing a spot with an NFL franchise. And Sunday that perseverance paid off, as Travis was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP Minneapolis.
The practice squad is different from the 53-man roster that teams had to work their way down to this weekend (the 53-man roster deadline fell on Saturday), as it consists of ten players who went through the waiver process prior to joining said group. And he joins a team that already has one tight end who has made the transition from college basketball to the pro gridiron in former Milwaukee forward Demetrius Harris.
Kansas City has four tight ends on its 53-man roster, led by Travis Kelce, and it goes without saying that making the move from the practice squad to the active roster can be tough for any player much less one with the on-field experience of Travis. But, being on the practice squad allows Travis to get the reps that he’ll need as he looks to make that transition.
Demetrius Harris is the latest undersized collegiate power forward to land himself a contract as an NFL tight end.
Over the weekend, the former UW-Milwaukee big man officially made the 53-man roster for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Harris was a 6-foot-7 brute for the Panthers, averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds as a senior in 2012-2013. He spent last season on the practice squad with Kansas City.
Harris never played football with Milwaukee, but he was a standout in high school and originally signed to play for Arkansas State on the gridiron. Undersized power forwards have become the breeding ground for talented NFL tight ends, as Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas — even Jordan Cameron — were college basketball players before they were the stars of your fantasy football team.
In recent years athletes who’ve enjoyed success on the basketball court have made the transition to the National Football League, with the tight end position being home to three of the game’s best. Tony Gonzalez (Cal) and Antonio Gates (Kent State) will wind up in Canton when they decide to hang up the cleats, and Jimmy Graham (Miami) has established himself as one of the best tight ends in pro football.
However despite the success of those three, making the move with limited (or no) high-level football experience is a tough process. Such was the case for Demetrius Harris, who after playing four seasons of college basketball (two Mineral Area CC and two at Milwaukee) was invited to work out for the Kansas City Chiefs in early April.
After earning a training camp spot as an undrafted free agent Harris has taken the next step in his career despite the long odds, earning a spot on the team’s practice squad.
Chiefs G.M. John Dorsey saw the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Harris play basketball at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and thought he had the perfect athletic makeup to be an NFL tight end, and so after Harris finished his college basketball season, the Chiefs signed Harris as an undrafted free agent. Harris didn’t play college football at all, so he has a lot of learning to do, but the Chiefs like his long-term potential.
Harris played football in high school, earning all-state honors in Arkansas as a senior, and he had a scholarship offer to play the sport at Arkansas State before low test scores nixed that possibility. After spending four years away from the game, having the chance to work with the Chiefs coaching staff will be a positive for Harris.
Will Harris eventually become a player capable of contributing not just during the week but on Sundays? We shall see.