Former football star leaps from gridiron to big screen

By MELINDA MARTINEZ, Alexandria Town Talk

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — As a football standout at Alexandria Senior High School, Nic Harris made big plays on the football field. Now, Harris will showcase his football skills on the big screen in a biopic “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story.”

In the movie, 2005 ASH alum portrays Ray Lewis, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker.

“Being in this movie is something he hasn’t bragged on but it’s something a few of us knew about,” said Reddex Washington, Jr. Alexandria city councilman for District 1 and one of Harris’ friends. “But that’s Nic making silent moves.”

The biopic follows the career of Warner, the NFL quarterback who went from being a bagger at a grocery store and arena league football player to the starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. In his first season as the Rams quarterback, he led them to a Super Bowl victory in 2000. The film stars Zachary Levi as Warner and Dennis Quaid as Rams coach Dick Vermeil. The film is set to be released Dec. 10.

“I’ve worked with Game Changing Films in the past on the production of ‘Focus’ and ‘Best Man Holiday’,” wrote Harris in an email. Game Changing Films coordinates sports action in movies, television shows and commercials. “They reached out saying they had the perfect part for me and this was it.”

The only time Harris has ever met Lewis was on the field. Harris also played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers.

“I was given his grace and also complimented for the portrayal,” he wrote. “I’m humbled immensely.”

After his NFL career, Harris is now a model and actor. And Washington points out that this isn’t Harris’ first time on a screen.

“The Old Spice commercials, you may not see his face but that’s his body,” said Washington, added that it’s just one of the ways that Harris does big things but stays humble.

Harris was also the first person he knew who enjoys working out.

Harris has filmed over 45 commercials for brands such as Old Spice, Nike, Adidas, Microsoft and Bose. He was also the chief defensive player/movements for the Electronic Arts (EA) gaming systems via Madden NFL football video games from 16-20.

“It’s been something that has been amazing for my career,” wrote Harris.

In the past, he appeared in photo shoots for Essence, The Source and Jet magazines and filmed a reality dating show pilot called “Heart & Soul” for the Oxygen Network.

Warner has an amazing story to tell and Harris said he is grateful for the part he has in telling it.

But Harris has his own amazing story which he is inspired by that could also be the subject of a book or movie — if the stars align.

“Honestly, I’m inspired by my own, living it daily, just a kid from Alexandria, Louisiana,” he wrote. “And I’m the author of this book.”

“Adversity, a product of my environment — challenges — these are things that are often thought of as negative,” said Washington. “But when I think of Nic Harris, these are things he turned into a positive. What I saw Nic do is face every challenge with his head up high. If the high mark was 10, I saw him push it to 12.”

A 2012 Town Talk article states that Harris was born in 1986 to teenage parents. They couldn’t take care of him so his grandparents took him in when he was three months old. To keep him out of the foster care system, he was he was cared for by other family members and friends throughout his childhood.

When he was 15, Harris officially emancipated himself from his parents.

“I have practically been on my own since I was 8 years old,” said Harris in the article. “I don’t know how not to be self-sufficient.”

It was LaQuanda Harrell, his father’s ex-girlfriend who later became his legal guardian, and gave him stability and support.

It was during this time that Harris began to thrive on the football field at ASH where he was an all-state football star. At 6-foot-2, 235-pound, the four-star recruit was ranked the fifth-best safety in the country by Rivals.com.

Major college football programs across the country took notice of him. Numerous scholarship offers poured in from schools such as LSU, Michigan and Nebraska but Harris ultimately chose to attend Oklahoma.

While at ASH, Harris also played basketball, baseball and ran track.

He was also in various skits and plays.

“Many who were there would remember the ‘Fab 5,’” he wrote. He graduated in 2005.

Harris excelled on the field for the Sooners where he was Oklahoma All-American. In 2009, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills.

For Harris, football was a way to better himself and other people. In college, he was president of Bridge Builders, an organization of African-American athletes at the university involved in community service.

Even now he is still active in community service. He mentors youth, coaching “The Opening” via Nike which showcases top football prospects, he said. He is also involved with Toys for Tots and Habitat for Humanity.

“Nic is a true example of a workaholic,” said Washington. “When you tell him he can’t do it, he goes well beyond.”

He lives in Los Angeles where he spends his free time with his daughter or traveling.

Harris doesn’t visit Alexandria often but when he does, he spends his time with family and getting his food orders in with his mom.

“Growing up I wanted better for my family,” Harris wrote. “For those that come after me, and whomever I could inspire. By whatever means whether it was the NFL — or another means.”

“Nic has been that silent Batman,” said Washington. “He comes to town helps out in areas and says, ‘No one needs to know I was here.’ Then he leaves.”

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