LARAMIE (AP) — Devyn Harris won’t tell you, but you can see how much this means to him.
At 8:35 a.m. Monday morning, his team is running. Inside the Indoor Practice Facility in Laramie, coaches bark orders and waves of Cowboys flow past them, running from one end of the field to the other.
In these late June sprints, some run harder than others. A few players yell encouragement, more enthusiastic than anyone can be expected to be this early on a Monday.
Harris doesn’t make a sound. But if you need to find him, it’s pretty simple.
He’s the one ahead of the pack.
The senior linebacker is soft-spoken, so he probably won’t tell you how difficult this past year was for him. He shakes off his season-long injury with a cold stare, explaining impassively how a Texas player rolled over on his foot.
He missed the following 11 games of his junior season, left to sit on the sidelines while his teammates struggled through a 4-8 campaign.
Looking back on it, he can only shake his head.
“It’s depressing, just seeing the team and all the things they were doing and not being able to contribute,” Harris tells the Casper Star-Tribune. “I couldn’t do much except stand by and watch things happen.”
Behind the scenes, though, Harris’ work never stopped. Days after his injury, he began to work out to keep his body in shape. He mentored redshirt freshman linebacker Lucas Wacha throughout the season, taking him through film and explaining the intricacies of the defense.
Locked doors didn’t stop him. Coaches became accustomed to taking phone calls from Harris, asking them to let him in the Rochelle Athletic Center after hours so he could watch film.
He won’t tell you about the work he put in, but come this fall, you’ll see the proof. That’s the idea, at least.
“Devyn is a real quiet kid, but he has worked extremely hard,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “He leads by example. He spends a lot of time on his own doing extra things to get better.”
Maybe that’s why he’s sprinting. When you spend months in a walking boot, you learn to appreciate the ability to run. For others, late June workouts are a way to stay in shape and prepare for another season. For Harris, they are proof of something greater:
Heading into fall camp, the 6-foot-3, 229-pound senior is atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. Not only that, but he’s a different player than the one who made eight tackles before going down against Texas.
Perhaps it was inevitable that when Harris could only watch, he began to learn. He saw things in the playbook and on the field that he hadn’t noticed before.
“I feel rejuvenated. My time off was probably a blessing in disguise. It helped me learn a lot of things as far as the offense and defense, and different positions,” Harris said. A slight smile finally breaks through. “Being back is pretty exciting.”
This new Devyn Harris is a leader by example, not volume. He knows where he needs to be, and can direct his teammates to their assignments as well.
Of course, that isn’t to say that Harris can’t raise his voice when the situation warrants it. If a teammate steps out of line, they’ll hear from him — and it won’t take long to get his point across.
“He definitely leads by example, but at the same time if you do something wrong, he’s not afraid one bit to get on you and say, ‘You need to do this,’” defensive lineman Eddie Yarbrough said. “I’d say he’s the leader on the defense.”
On Aug. 31 in Lincoln, Neb., the leader will take his place in the middle of the field, calling plays and adjusting to the opponent’s formations once again.
“I can’t say enough good things about Devyn Harris,” Yarbrough said. “He’s probably one of my closest friends up here, and to know that I can look back behind me and see him in there … he’s going to be a playmaker.”
And yet, he’ll tell you none of this. After Monday’s practice, Harris answers questions from a few reporters, calmly responding in short, efficient sentences and then glancing towards his teammates as they walk out of the field house.
After having 11 games taken away from him, Harris wants to make his senior season count. The 65 tackles he made in 2011 are no longer good enough. It was a start, but he aims to be better.
So, he put in the hours behind the scenes. He lifted weights day after day, strengthening everything — even the injured foot. He watched film in an empty athletics center, calling coaches to unlock the doors.
He did more than what was expected of him . but why?
For that answer, Harris doesn’t need many words. He stares at you for a second, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“I just want to be the best,” he says.
From the Casper Star-Tribune.