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Chargers Draft Profile: Lindenwood ILB Connor Harris

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Some athletes were simply born to play the game of football. Others were built with time, training and dedication to the sport. Lindenwood inside linebacker Connor Harris might be the perfect combination of all of these attributes.

A team captain for three consecutive seasons, Harris started every one of the 48 games in which he played. A 2016 senior campaign, was capped off as Harris became the national Defensive Player of the year in Divisions II, III and NAIA. Even more impressive, the young linebacker became the NCAA All-Division record holder with 633 career tackles, breaking the previous record (550) held by former Illinois St. linebacker, Boomer Grigsby.

Along with eclipsing the tackling record, Harris recorded 34 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks. Including six interceptions, 14 pass breakups, three forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and averaged 13 tackles per game during his college career. Despite the numerous accolades, Harris realizes that the future of his football career isn't measured by stats or awards.

"They really still haven't hit me," Harris said. "After the season there was a quick transition to pursuing a professional career, that I haven't been able to really sit back and reflect on them. However, they are a huge blessing and honor, but I wouldn't have been able to attain them without so many people in my life."

Playing with an intensity and a non-stop motor, Harris has instincts and lateral quickness that is possessed by a prototype inside linebacker. Despite what scouts may say about his size (5'11, 242 lbs.) Harris can play all three downs with terrific initial burst to make plays sideline to sideline. Shows good use of his hands to shed blockers, plays downhill and powers through creases putting himself in position to make plays. Harris is the quintessential "gym rat" with a good build and solid athleticism. When he's not in the gym, Harris is digesting games film as he always looking to improve his game.

Draft analysts question the level of competition that Harris faced while at Lindenwood and whether or not his success can continue at the next level. While Harris' play ultimately speaks for itself on the gridiron, it is his preparation and work ethic that he believes will make the biggest statement among scouts and coaches.

"I had learned a lot of great things at my time at Lindenwood from a lot of coaches and teammates." Said Harris. "The biggest thing I learned from both coach Ross and coach Melvin was to be "all in" in everything you do (weight room, class, community, football field, etc.) Working hard in every aspect of life has helped grow me as a leader, football player, and overall person."

Lindenwood Football - Linebacker Connor Harris

Harris received an invite to this year's senior bowl where he showcased his instincts against the run recording six tackles and even had a pick-six earlier in the week during practice. Harris also made the trip to Indianapolis as he participated NFL Combine last month, recording 18 reps on the bench press and finished as one of the top performers in the forty-yard dash (4.73) vertical jump (33 inches) 3 cone drill (7.13) and 60 yd shuttle (11.84).

"Being a small school guy, a lot of people have doubt that I can compete at a high level against the best competition. I believe I showed small school guys can at the Reese's Senior Bowl, combine, and I hope to continue to show that at the next level."

Harris has drawn pro-comparisons to former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. One NFC college scouting director spoke very highly in regards to how Harris plays the game. Last week ESPN Staff Writer Eric Williams wrote that with the Chargers transitioning to a 4-3 defense under new DC Gus Bradley, LB Jatavis Brown may possibly move to outside linebacker. Also, with the Chargers letting Manti Te'o walk in free agency, adding a player like Harris would fill a void at the linebacker position in the later rounds of the draft.

Harris has made it known that he has spoken with and met with multiple teams leading up to the draft. No matter what round he is drafted or which team he plays for, Harris wants to let the NFL fan base know what kind of a player they will be getting when he steps on the field on day one.

"They will be getting a guy who shows up every day to work and someone who helps the team win with whatever role I can play."

Draft analysis criticisms, the "undersized for the position" label and the level of competition critiques are all familiar things that Harris has heard his entire football career. But with his leadership traits, athleticism, consistent production and football intelligence, Harris has silenced those critics one after another and plans on doing the same when he reaches the NFL.