True Grit: How the Vikings’ Anthony Harris Made it in the NFL

May 19, 2019Katie Whelan
Coffee or Die Photo

The job of an athlete is often romanticized. What the general public sees on television is only a glimmer of reality. Everyone can probably agree that athletes conquer many physical barriers to reach their goals, but it is almost impossible to grasp the work that it takes to reach the top and stay there.

Most boys growing up in America learn what a fade route is before they learn to multiply. Unsurprisingly, “professional athlete” is currently listed in the top three dream jobs for boys; however, only a small fraction of the population reaches this profession. The likelihood of high school senior football players making it to the National Football League is about .09 percent.

Even when an athlete does reach the highest level of play, the work is just beginning. There is no such thing as a flawless game, and athletes must continue to perfect their craft as each year passes. Sometimes, no matter the work that’s been put in, one incident changes everything in the blink of an eye.

Injury can be a traumatic experience for anyone. But when you’re a professional athlete, it affects you in a deeper sense. Not only is it your job, but also your passion, your outlet, and who you are — an injured athlete risks losing a piece of their identity. Studies have shown that 51 percent of injured athletes experience mild to severe depression that is often not addressed.

So, what is it that makes some athletes recover and return stronger than ever, while some crumble and drift away?

Anthony Harris, a free safety for the Minnesota Vikings, seems to have what it takes — grit.

Grit is defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. It is working strenuously toward challenges, and maintaining effort and interest despite adversity and failure. Individuals who have grit set long-term goals and they reach them. Grit is exactly what it took for Harris to make a name for himself in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Harris.


When Harris began playing youth football in 4th grade, he played defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, and running back. Unlike most boys, he didn’t necessarily set his eyes on the NFL at this age.

“All I thought about was the next level I had to get to,” he said during an interview with Coffee or Die. “When I was in youth league, I looked up to high school and thought playing there would be so amazing. Once I got to high school and started performing, that’s when people started talking about me playing in college. Once I got to college and performed, that’s when I realized I had a shot in the NFL.”

His high school career was nothing short of amazing. Harris was named a two-time All-State and All-Region player, allowing only one completion and snagging eight interceptions his junior year.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Harris.

During his senior year, Harris suffered his first major injury — a broken leg. Some schools were hesitant to sign him, but the University of Virginia decided to give him a chance.

Throughout his college career, Harris recorded 289 tackles,11 interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and 19 passes deflected. During his junior year, he led the nation with eight interceptions and was invited to play in the 2015 Senior Bowl but ultimately had to decline do to a labrum tear.

The same injury also prevented him from competing in the events at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2015. Despite not having the opportunity to showcase his abilities at the combine, Harris was signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’m not worried about the people who don’t believe in me – that’s fine. I’ll show you.”

Harris spent his first three years as the backup safety, but he made big plays in critical moments whenever he got the chance to step onto the field.

“Because I went undrafted, people just say you had a good performance,” Harris said. “They assumed it was just a good game, and that you can’t do it consistently.”

With a total of 46 tackles, six pass breakups, and three interceptions in 2018, Harris proved he was the right man for the job.

“I just love playing the game,” Harris said. “It’s fun. It’s so competitive. Everyone wants to compare this safety to that safety. I just want to be remembered as one of the best. I’ll always try to be better than the next guy.”

Photo courtesy of Anthony Harris.

Grit isn’t an attribute that only athletes can benefit from — it’s needed for success in any field. No matter the obstacles and doubters, with passion and perseverance, anything is achievable.

After Harris’ impressive 2018 season, he was re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings and is expected to take over the starting safety position for the 2019 season.

“I’m not worried about the people who don’t believe in me – that’s fine. I’ll show you,” Harris said. “Not even being mad, I respect their opinion and I’m not worried about them. I just want to make the people that do believe in me right.”

Katie Whelan
Katie Whelan

Katie Whelan is a contributing writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Thomas Edison State University and is an active duty U.S. Army staff sergeant, assigned to 1st Special Forces Group. Katie also plays center and defensive end for the Seattle Mist (LFL) football team and is a two-time national champion.  She is a Minnesota native but currently resides in Washington state with her daughter.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Robert Heinlein: The Navy Vet Who Pioneered Sci-Fi

The dean of science fiction combined his experiences in the Navy with his knowledge as an aeronautical engineer to create genre-transforming novels.

January 27, 2023Mac Caltrider
Masih Alinejad
Feds: Brooklyn Cops Foil Brazen Iranian Plot to Murder Masih Alinejad

Three men reputedly linked to Eastern European mobsters and Iranian intelligence operatives have been arrested.

January 27, 2023Carl Prine
FILE - Ukrainian soldiers on captured Russian tanks T-72 hold military training close to the Ukraine-Belarus border near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. The West's move to send tanks to Ukraine was greeted enthusiastically from Kyiv, Berlin and Washington. But Moscow seemed to shrug. The Kremlin has warned the West that supplying tanks would be a dangerous escalation of the conflict and denounced the decision. AP photo by Aleksandr Shulman, File.
Russia Responds to Ukraine’s ‘Tanksgiving’ With Missile and Drone Strikes

Hours after the US and Germany agreed to send battle tanks to Ukraine, Russia launched missile and drone strikes at targets across the country.

January 26, 2023Nolan Peterson
Marine Corps Dedicates First New Base in 7 Decades

For the first time in seven decades, the US Marine Corps is building a new base.

January 26, 2023Carl Prine
US Sending Nearly a Battalion of Abrams Tanks to Ukraine

The US will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine after months of uncertainty.

January 26, 2023Associated Press
The damaged tug Mark E. Kuebler grounded near Corpus Christi, Texas, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A large gash is visible just above the waterline. Photos courtesy of Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Merrit Carter. Composite by Kenna Lee/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Coast Guard Coxswain Emphasizes Having Clear Head During Tugboat Response

One of the world’s most innovative tugboats remains beached on a Texas sandbar, after apparently getting sucked under a massive oil tanker and mauled by its propeller.

January 26, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Coffee Or Die Photo
The ‘Tallinn Pledge’ for Ukraine: NATO V2.0?

Representatives from nine NATO countries gathered in Estonia and pledged more military aid for Ukraine.

January 20, 2023Nolan Peterson
Coffee Or Die Photo
Triple Seven Expedition
DISPATCH: With Celebratory Jump in Florida, Triple 7 Expedition Is a Wrap

The Triple 7 Expedition's team of nine vets wrapped up its breakneck skydiving expedition with a final, celebratory jump in Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

January 20, 2023Jenna Biter
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved