While 6-foot-9 Saints undrafted free agent defensive end Corbin Kaufusi is trying to become one of the tallest players in the NFL, Deonte Harris hopes to be one of the smallest.
Harris, a 5-foot-6, 170-pound wide receiver/kick return specialist from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, put up some big numbers for the Division II school. He holds the NCAA all-division record with 14 kick-return touchdowns (six on kickoffs, eight on punts) and the single-season record with eight return TDs in 2017.
Like Kaufusi, he is one of 21 announced free agents under contract trying to make a big impression at the Saints rookie minicamp this weekend.
“They were talking to me throughout the whole draft process,” he said. “They called me right before their last pick and told me they weren’t going to pick me but they wanted me to sign.”
Former Saints running back Darren Sproles, whom Harris mentions as a role model, is 5-foot-6, too, but the more relevant comparison is to Tommylee Lewis, a 5-foot-7, undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois who played the past three years with the Saints before signing with Detroit this offseason. Lewis had 20 catches (for 252 yards), returned 24 kickoffs and returned 36 punts in his time in New Orleans.
“Just me being 5-6, a lot of people are already counting me out,” Harris said. “It’s something that always gives me a chip on my shoulder and has made me go even harder.”
Harris said he had a half-scholarship offer from Towson but nothing else when he chose Assumption College, where he was a teammate of Cole Tracy before joining him again at Saints minicamp. He thrived at Assumption, catching 226 passes for 2,897 yards and 28 touchdowns, averaging 32.6 yards on 63 kickoff returns and 20.4 yards on 48 punt returns.
He said the Saints and the Bengals were the two NFL teams that contacted him during and after the draft.
“I have the playmaking ability to make guys miss in the open field and the ability to score every time I touch the ball,” he said. “Obviously this is a higher level of competition, but I’m going to do whatever I can do to get on the field.”