If you blink while Deonte Harris fields a punt for the New Orleans Saints, you might just miss him. The talented wideout from Assumption College is using his jaw-dropping speed to become an immediate impact player in the NFL.
Making the jump from Division II to the NFL shouldn’t be a smooth transition. And yet, Harris became an All-Pro kick returner for the Saints in his first season, totaling 982 return yards and one touchdown.
Harris has already proven himself to be one of the best returners in football. Though he only had six receptions in 2019, the 22-year-old has the potential to play a larger role this fall. His route-running ability was on display when he shook Xavier Rhodes out of cleats during the NFC Wild Card Round.
Fans in New Orleans want to see what else Harris can bring to the table. Besides, the team could use another wideout next to Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas.
We sat down with Harris to talk about his rookie season in New Orleans, if he expects his role to change this fall, his thoughts on Taysom Hill being the successor to Drew Brees and much more. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: How are you preparing for the 2020 season during these unprecedented times?
Deonte Harris: Gyms are closed, so it’s hard to get access to the workouts I really want to do. I’ve been doing a lot of field work and body-weight workouts to stay in shape, but it’s been difficult.
The Spun: What are your thoughts on the city of New Orleans?
DH: I honestly believe that city never sleeps. There are great vibes and people are always doing something. The hospitality is great too. Everywhere I go, someone asks me how I am. The food is definitely good, and the entire place is very welcoming.
The Spun: You went from a Division II athlete to an All-Pro returner in a year’s time. Has that sunk in for you yet?
DH: It actually hit me two weeks ago when I was watching replays of past games. I was like ‘I really made the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro player.’ So yeah, it finally hit me.
Stopped by #Saints KR/PR Deonte Harris locker today. Harris is the first Saints return specialist to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Michael Lewis in 2002 and the first undrafted Saint to be selected to the league’s all-star game as a rookie.
— Brooke Kirchhofer (@brookechesney) December 19, 2019
The Spun: Saints fans are eager to see you more involved in the offense. How do you think your role might expand?
DH: I try not to think about it too much. I just want to help the team in whatever way I can. If my role does increase, I’ll try to make as many plays as possible. If it doesn’t expand, I’ll do what I did on special teams last year – if not play, I’ll try to play even better.
The Spun: You get a close look at Michael Thomas on a daily basis. What makes him so special?
DH: There are certain things you see in the game that we see at practice every day. Every practice rep to him is a game rep. He doesn’t take time off and he’s always focused. If people watched him at practice, they’d understand why he’s so good during games. He truly believes you have to practice how you play.
The Spun: Is it fair to say Michael Thomas has a similar mentality to Michael Jordan?
DH: I mean he’s just a dawg. He’s not here to make friends, especially with someone on the other team. His mentality is that he doesn’t care who you put in front of him, you’re not going to stop him. So, I do think he has that killer mentality like MJ or Kobe [Bryant].
The Spun: The NFL is expanding on its rules for defenseless players on special teams. What are your thoughts on that?
DH: If you want to give me more protection, I can’t be mad about it. I will feel bad for punt teams and kickoff teams though.
One move and GONE.
Deonte Harris takes the punt return 53 yards to the house! #NOvsSEA
— NFL (@NFL) September 22, 2019
The Spun: What was it like playing with Teddy Bridgewater, and now that he’s gone, who is the best dancer in the Saints’ locker room?
DH: Teddy is a cool guy. He brings positivity every day and he always has a smile on his face. I’m sad to see him go, but I’m happy that he now has the opportunity to be a starting quarterback and play the game he loves. As for who’s the best dancer, I’ll probably go with Craig Robertson.
The Spun: Taysom Hill is receiving a ton of praise from New Orleans. Do you think he has what it takes to be the successor to Drew Brees?
DH: Whenever I see Drew, I see Taysom. What I mean is when I see Drew in the film room, I see Taysom right behind him. I think he has the skillset and he’s receiving knowledge from the right person. I’d definitely feel comfortable with him as our starting quarterback whenever Drew decides to retire.
Taysom Hill did it all this drive!
A deep ball, and a block, and the @Saints are up!
— Sunday Night Football (@SNFonNBC) January 5, 2020
The Spun: Emmanuel Sanders signed a two-year deal with the Saints this offseason. How do you feel about him joining the receiving corps?
DH: He’s a great player and he’s been in the league for a long time. I’m going to sit under him and soak as much information as I can. I think he’s a great addition, and I think he’ll help us get to where we want to be…the Super Bowl.
The Spun: Who would win in a race: Tyreek Hill or Deonte Harris?
DH: Not me (laughing). Tyreek’s speed is unreal. I can’t even tell you how close it would be, but it probably wouldn’t be fair.
The Spun: What’s your personal goal for this upcoming season?
DH: I want to be more involved in the offense and help us put more points on the board. I want to do what I did on special teams, but I also want to play a role on offense and help out as much as I can.
This route by Deonte Harris was filthy 🤧
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 5, 2020
The Saints have all the components of a Super Bowl team. However, the offense could use a playmaker that takes the top off defenses. Perhaps another year under Sean Payton’s system will do wonders for Harris.
Even if Harris doesn’t see an expanded role during the 2020 season, he’s still a force to be reckoned with on special teams.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.