Motivated by bowl loss, Harper embraces leadership role

28 Aug

Chris Harper and Wildcats made the Cotton Bowl last season, but the group looks to improve on 2011’s results.(Photo by James D. Smith/CBAA).

After the game clock at Cowboys Stadium hit 00:00 on Saturday, Jan. 6, Chris Harper retreated. The wide receiver stayed away from social media, avoided talking about football and generally stayed in his shell for several weeks after Kansas State lost to Arkansas in the 2012 Cotton Bowl, 29-16.

These days, he wears his bowl game T-shirts every day to practice at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The wardrobe choice works as a daily confrontation of the loss that fueled him throughout the offseason and continues to fuel him now.

“That game was terrible,” Harper said with conviction. “Tthat’s not going to happen at practice, that’s not going to happen during the game. I’m going to make sure that’s not going to happen.”

As a junior, the wide receiver led the team with 40 catches, 547 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Overall, though, he is far from satisfied with his contribution in 2011.

Looking back on last season, Harper included himself in the group that did not show the necessary diligence in summer workouts. The casual attitude toward offseason work contributed to an overall lack of preparation that ultimately led to a near-loss against Eastern Kentucky in the Wildcats’ season opener.

“Everybody doesn’t look at [summer] as a big deal, but we saw that it was a big deal in our first game,” Harper said.

Needless to say, summer workouts got a little more respect in 2012. Most players took the preparation time more seriously. Harper was one of them. He wants to make the most of this season, especially when he looks back on the missed opportunities of last year. Maybe the most bothersome of those lost chances was his approach to the Cotton Bowl, where he said he thinks his disengagement and lack of leadership hurt the Wildcats.

“I didn’t set an example for the other guys, and I think it had an impact on the game,” Harper said. “I think that was part of the reason why the Cotton Bowl happened – because I didn’t put the time in that I needed to. You can’t just go out there and not do anything and expect to be great.”

Now, Harper faces his final season as a Kansas State football player, and he intends to make every effort to improve not just his own play but that of his teammates as well.

“I know the receiver position was lacking leadership that we needed,” Harper said. “I’m still not a guy that’s going to go out there and yell at you, be vocal, but I feel like when you’re out there on the field, [and] people see you doing it, you don’t have to say too much.”

While quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown have taken on vocal leadership roles as team captains, Harper sees plenty of evidence from them that the most important part of leadership is nonverbal. That part occurs when their teammates witness them work hard – not just doing the minimum, not just going through the motions because they already have their starting spots, but consistently striving to reach their next level.

“When you’re in a position of leadership, you have to do that much more to show the other guys that there’s a reason you’ve gotten there,” Harper said. “It’s not just by happenstance.”

Head coach Bill Snyder always says that if a player makes himself better, he makes the team better overall. In that regard, it looks like Harper is off to a good start.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: