Ex-Duck Chris Harper says he always belonged on the field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. It doesn't surprise Chris Harper that the Oregon Ducks have made four consecutive BCS games, including the national championship game two years ago.
Harper left the Duck program after the 2008 season to transfer to Kansas State, about the same time Chip Kelly took over as Oregon coach.
"I knew they had the athletes on the team, the players, the leadership," Harper said, as K-State continued to prepare for the 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday Fiesta Bowl game with the Ducks. "I knew every aspect of the program. I definitely saw that (BCS bowls) coming."
Harper said he had a good relationship with Kelly, who recruited him from Wichita, Kan., to play quarterback for the Ducks.
Harper saw brief time at quarterback before throwing problems, exposed during the 2008 Boise State game, forced his move to receiver, as did Jeremiah Masoli asserting himself at QB.
Harper now says he wanted to move to receiver (Kelly said recently that Harper wanted to play quarterback).
Either way, Harper transferred to Kansas State to try to play quarterback (about the same time Wildcats star Collin Klein started making an impression among the K-State QBs). Klein went on to become a Heisman Trophy finalist this season.
"Everybody thinks I moved unwillingly," Harper said, of the position switch at Oregon. "I wasn't going to play (at quarterback). And, I wasn't going to sit on the bench and watch them when I knew I could be on the field. I knew what type of athlete I was. I definitely knew I should have been on the field."
Harper switched to receiver, had nine receptions (two for TDs) for the Ducks, then transferred to Kansas State because he wanted to be closer to home and because he had relationships with K-State coaches and players.
He sat out the 2009 season, but he has made an impact at receiver for the Wildcats, leading them in receptions (50) and yards (786) this season.
Harper said he doesn't necessarily run routes all the time, but simply gets open for Klein to find him.
"I miss (playing quarterback)," Harper said. "You touch the ball every play. Everybody on the field wants to play quarterback, but it is what it is."
Harper used the word "swag" (short for "swagger") to describe Kelly's "aura."
He said that Kelly, 49, and K-State coach Bill Snyder, 73, are opposites.
But, "they both just want to coach," Harper said. "They don't want to do the extra stuff that goes with coaching. Coach Snyder is more conservative, Coach Kelly is more progressive."