Starting quarterback chases goals on, off field

Tyler Harris is the new starting quarterback for the University of Rhode Island football team.   On Aug. 31, Harris became the 10th different starter for the Rams since the start of the 2010 season.

Harris transferred to URI from the University of Central Florida where he was a top 300 recruit according to ESPN.  Harris brings much more to URI than an impressive football resume.

While at UCF, Harris spent three years chasing a bachelor’s degree in business and two years chasing a starting quarterback job.  Harris achieved one of those feats: a degree in business.    

Along with playing football at URI, Harris is also in pursuit of his MBA.  Harris said that he and his father had made trips to Rhode Island before he made the decision to officially transfer to URI.  They both enjoyed the area and the school seemed to be the perfect fit to attain his master’s degree.  “We really love the area,” Harris said about Rhode Island.  “Beaches, everything.  The school is one of the best you can go to in the Northeast.”

“The opportunity to achieve a master’s is the pinnacle of what we are really in this for,” Rhode Island’s head coach Jim Fleming said, “which is to make sure kids get through and have a good playing experience and get a good education.”

Fleming did not underplay the obstacle that Harris climbed over at UCF.  “The benefit that most people don’t know that that kid [Harris] graduated from college in three years,” Fleming said.  “He was very attentive to his school work down at UCF.”

The connection between Harris and URI dates back to Fleming and his time at Central Florida.  Fleming served as the defensive coordinator for the Knights during the 2013 and 2014 seasons before Harris had made his commitment there.  However, current Rams offensive line coach, Keegan Kennedy served as the tight ends coach at UCF and bridged the time period between Fleming’s time and Harris’.

Fleming said that when former Rhode Island quarterback Wes McKoy decided to transfer from the  program at the end of last year he had to pursue another quarterback.  “We looked at a couple of different guys and we decided that Tyler was the one we really liked,” Fleming said.  “We like the way that he could throw the football and we knew a lot about him.  All the detail work and knowledge of his character was already done.  We felt very comfortable with that.”

Harris’ familiarity with coaching staff at Rhode Island made the decision to transfer easier.  “The relationships I had with the coaching staff made me more comfortable here,” Harris said.  Fleming told him that the Rams were a couple of pieces away from being a complete football team.  “Coach Fleming pitched me the program and told me that he had all the guys he just had a couple missing pieces and I could fill some of those voids.  I saw it as a good opportunity to come in and make a difference and put this program back on top.”

In the past three years under Fleming, Rhode Island football has accumulated just four wins.  For Harris, he said the team is going to win games with him under center.  “We are going to get wins,” Harris said.  “It is not a matter of if but when.  We are going to do it and I am looking forward to being the guy that leads us to there.”

Despite only being with the team since the summer’s training camp, Harris was one of the front-runners for a team captain position.  “I come out to practice each day with the mindset of making myself better and making the guys around me better,” Harris said.  “I feel like the guys have really taken to that and have bought into it.”

Harris will be trading in the luxury of living in central Florida for living in Rhode Island.  However, the weather does not scare Harris.  He looks forward in playing in Rhode Island.  “I am from South Georgia and I have never seen the snow,” Harris said with a chuckle.  “I’m not really big on cold weather, but I thought it would be kind of neat to come up here and even play in the snow.”

Harris said after college football he would love to continue to play at the next level.  However, if that falls through he has his master’s degree to fall back on and his father’s footsteps to follow.  “I will have my master’s degree,” Harris said, “which is a really big deal for me coming out of school.  I think I would love to own my own company one day.  My dad has his own company and I see how he lives, the freedom he has, and the stuff he gets to do.  I’m really drawn to being an entrepreneur.”