Derek Harris- Cornerback
Growing up as the youngest child in his household, this Waco, Texas native plays more like a Wild West gun-slinger than the “baby boy.” Being the son of a football coach, defensive back Derrick Harris got interested in playing at a young age, chunking the pig skin ever since his days in elementary.
Even though his days of little league football are over, Harris still finds it a blessing to play in front of his family, most importantly his mother who he considers to be his “Biggest inspiration, and biggest fan,” said Harris with a proud expression on his face.
Now as a senior defensive back, Harris is in the position to anchor the defense as one of the “OUTLAWS,” after only having played the position since his junior year as a Waco High School Lion. Playing with the hunger of earning a college scholarship in high school, led him to the opportunity of receiving a college education. “If there wasn’t a scholarship, there wouldn’t be any college for me,” said Harris. “My mom told me we didn’t have the money for college, so I did what I had to do to get this scholarship,” Harris added.
Since joining the SHSU football team in 2003, Harris has become a three-year letterman, a Bearkat special teams star, and led the secondary in pass break ups last season. With his success in previous seasons, Harris has a lot of reasons to have a positive outlook on this season.
Selected as a pre-season All-Southland Conference second team member for the 2006 season Harris explains, “There is no chip on my shoulder. I’m trying to be one of the best. I’m pre-season second team, hopefully by the end of the season I’ll be first team, and hopefully I can get to All-American status.”
Although the Mohawk wearing cornerback plays with the toughness of an “OUTLAW,” off the field Harris considers himself to be a “cool cat” that keeps things exciting around him. “I try to keep every one around me happy. I like to keep things live and wired up,” said Harris, laughing while leaning forward in his chair.
Harris’s dream is to continue to play football professionally after
college if the opportunity presents it self. Harris is pursuing a degree in General Business and desires to be a sport’s agent helping student athletes get to the professional level in the future.
Number 29 for the Bearkats grew up minutes away from the Gulf Shore in Texas City, not knowing he would one day return to his early childhood hometown in Walker County to play the game he loves.
“Football was pretty much an activity for me to keep my mind focused on something after school,” said the six-foot, Senior Defensive Back. Chad Oliphant first got into football while in junior high against his mothers wishes. “My mom didn’t want me to play football at first because she was scared I might get hurt. But during the football season I didn’t have anything else to do so she would allow me to play so I could keep my mind off the streets,” said Oliphant, with a sincere voice.
Honing his skills as a Texas City stingray, Oliphant was close to not playing football in college, during his senior season when he felt he was not being recruited. “My coach made a few phone calls. It seemed like two days after that, Sam Houston called me,” said Olipahnt. “Coach Norton asked me how you fell about being a Bearkat. I had offers to three different schools and after weighing out my options home was the best thing for me,” referring back to Huntsville, the town he was born in.
Now as a veteran Bearkat playing the game his mother once condemned him from playing, has brought him full circle back to the town where he took his first steps as Oliphant spearheads the cast of returning seniors.
Oliphant is coming off an injury-plagued season in 2005, which kept him from playing the latter part of the season. Similar to his long time “OUTLAW” defensive counter part Braylon Linnear, who suffered a side lining injury last year, both are attempting to finish their college careers with a bang.
“I’m just ready to play because I felt last season was just a teaser,” said Oliphant. The second game of the 2005 season, Oliphant dislocated his shoulder then again in the fifth game before reinjuring it twice in the seventh game. When things seemed like it could not get any worse, the next week of practice Oliphant broke his arm. “It seemed like the football gods were playing with me all season,” said Oliphant, in a joking manner trying to find some humor behind the injury plagued season.
Realizing this might be his last season playing the game he loves, Oliphant plans on going out on top in similar fashion as the conference champion season in 2004. “People get more serious their senior year because they know their time is limited. And you don’t want to go out 3-7 your senior year, so we’re trying to go out like the seniors in 2004.” said Oliphant, expressing the importance of his last games as a Bearkat.
“I’m going to play each of the games this season with the mind set of thinking this is my last game, and I want to go out with a bang and go my hardest the whole time.”
Playing the “Bandit” position, otherwise known as the nickel back position in other defensive units, this “Outlaw” shows up for the games fully loaded ready for the showdown.
Falling short by one tackle last season behind senior Robert Herron in 2005 as the Bearkats leading tackler, defensive back Tony Jones is focused on being the enforcer of the Bearkats secondary, picking up the slack due to injury set backs to the line up.
“My fellow teammates had some knick knack injuries last year, the most serious injury required shoulder surgery,” said Jones commenting about the injuries to some of the “Outlaws.” “I kept it strong throughout the season and spring football, and we also got some new players that can play a leadership role in the future,” said Jones, referring to his obligation to step up as a leader during his teammates injuries.
Although Jones has filled the leadership void when needed, number nine for the Bearkats is no stranger to stepping up to the challenge. Jones was a 1st Team All-District selection while playing linebacker for the Cy-Falls Golden Eagles, where he led the defense in tackles. The Houston native’s experience has never been in question as he has been lacing up his cleats, and buckling up his chin strap for “14 seasons straight, and with the lord’s blessing I hope to play more seasons,” Jones said.
While he has been battling on the gridiron for more than a decade, his dream of playing in the NFL is minute to his dreams off the field.
“I grew up with my aunt and uncle, but it’s not like growing up in a family with your biological parents and to feel that love. So my main goal is to be there and provide for my family. Making it to the league is a bonus,” said Jones’s, speaking from his heart in a sincere demeanor.
Earning a football scholarship to SHSU will help the criminal justice major accomplish his goals of providing for his family through a college education.
“I’m focused on getting this degree; I’m looking at a lot of different fields in Criminal Justice. But no matter what I’m doing, I’m going to still be in my playbook,” Jones’s said, keeping the option of one day coaching football as a possibility for his future.