EDITOR'S NOTE:*This article appeared in the Houston Texans Gameday magazine on Oct. 14, 2012, for the Texans' game against the Green Bay Packers at Reliant Stadium.
Chick Harris has been the Texans' running backs coach since the team's inaugural season in 2002. He and special teams coordinator Joe Marciano are the only coaches who have been with the team for all 11 seasons.
A native of Durham, N.C., Harris is in his 32nd NFL season. Before joining the Texans, he spent the 1995-2001 seasons as running backs coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers. He also had stints with the Los Angeles Rams (1992-94), Seattle Seahawks (1983-91) and Buffalo Bills (1981-82) after 11 seasons as a coach in the NCAA and World Football League.
Here, Harris reflects on his memories of the franchise's first decade.
How did you come to join the Texans?
"I had interviewed with Dom (Capers) earlier, and he asked if I'd take a job with him. Myself and Greg Roman, who's now in San Francisco, we boarded a plane from Charlotte, N.C., and came out to Houston, Texas. Didn't know too much about it; came right in and took the trip down to the hotel and got ourselves straight. And it was from the ground floor. Meeting rooms, playbooks, everything had to start from scratch. We had been with Dom for a long time, so we knew what he expected. It was just interesting because I hadn't spent any time in Texas, and I found that the people were very warm and they were really involved in football. I had just a great start. Even finding a house, I found a great realtor that was a football fanatic, and he did a great job for me. I enjoyed our first offices over on 610. That was interesting, on the 'Loop.' We had our small offices and we were working through that. Once we started getting players in to work out, we went over to the Astrodome, and that was a real awakening because it was old and dilapidated, but we made the best out of a temporary situation. I had done this in Carolina, so this was a new track for me but pretty much the same. And it was a struggle, because we had less talent than I thought we had at Carolina. All the players, we tried to make the best we could out of their abilities, and consequently, getting into games, we would be outmanned. It was a little frustrating, but we kept a positive outlook at it and continued to work on it."
What do you remember about the excitement in the city about NFL football returning to
"We went down to the Expansion Draft, and that was incredible, all the people that were out there. Everybody was talking about the Houston Texans, (saying), 'We're for ya' and all that. I heard a lot about Texas football, but I didn't realize how much enthusiasm people had for it until I got here. We worked through the growing pains. It was hard, difficult times, and we lost more games than we wanted to, but that's what happens."
What do you remember about the head coaching transition when Gary Kubiak arrived in 2006?
"I knew of Gary when I coached in Seattle Seahawks because we used to play the Denver Broncos all the time. I had some coaches that had coached in Denver with him. I knew of Denver being a World Championship team. Those are things that I really wanted, I was enamored with. I had a couple of offers before with some other teams that I was trying to get with, but my family enjoyed it here in Houston and in Sugar Land. Once you get to a place, just to be moving to be moving, I didn't want to do that. I saw that the enthusiasm from the people that were working in the Texans organization, it was warm and it was genuine, and people were really working to try to make a good football team. Gary was so nice to give me an opportunity (to stay). He had people in mind, but eventually, he asked me if I wanted to remain with the Texans and follow his system. I could do that, and I was tickled to death because my daughter was able to stay in the same place, I kept the same house, and I knew the system that he came from was a winning system, and that's what I was really interested in, getting with a person that's been to the big game and has had experienced all the work and effort it would take to be there. So, I was able to stay, and I learned a great deal. I'm just so happy just to see the fan base and all the people around here. Some of the losses were real tough losses, but now it's changed where we are starting to make a move and be considered a good football team, a good football organization all the way around."
In your 10th season with the team last year, what was it like to finally make it to the playoffs?
"It was a dream come true. I had spent so many disappointing Christmases, holidays, ending up in a losing situation, with a losing record. It was really hard, but I just wanted to stick it out. I wanted to fight to be able to realize having a team that could go to the playoffs. And that was just absolutely fantastic to be able to taste it again, because I had been to several playoffs before through Carolina and Seattle. I had gone such a span that I didn't think I'd ever do it again, but we were able to build it up to a point where we can do it now, and we did it. Now, you can feel the confidence around here that there's more to be done and we're not satisfied with what we have."
What has it been like working for Bob McNair?
"It's great. You see an owner that is very reserved and unshakable, and you know, he's very thoughtful about what he does. He's done a great job all the way through it. I can see his face beaming now, seeing that our football team is winning, and he understands that we have a focus on winning it all if at all possible."
Domanick Williams (Davis) won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2003 and had 3,000-plus rushing yards for you in three seasons in Houston. What made him so successful?
"He was a good little football player. We ran the ball a lot. We were trying to stay away from too many sacks, and Domanick had a chance to run the football. He was a tough, hard-nosed guy, big-play guy. Had a great spirit about him, and he was successful. Unfortunately, he had a knee that was deteriorating and he wasn't able to sustain. I think he would have had a great career if his knee had been better."
Steve Slaton led all rookies in rushing in 2008. What do you remember about that season?
"It was just great to have a little guy form West Virginia. He was a little small, but I tell you what, as we watched him in the college ranks, he was able to make big plays and he was able to do a lot of things in space that sometimes you can't coach. Steve showed the ability to catch the football and he had big-play ability. Once his confidence level got up, he was hard to beat. Just a terrific little player for us."
Arian Foster went undrafted in 2009 and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. What do you remember about him from the very start?
"Oh, just remember that he wanted to prove that he could do it. Here's a guy that knew he had ability, but he wanted to prove to us. We asked him to dedicate himself to working hard and being a team player, and he accepted all that and worked his tail off. Got in the special teams with Joe (Marciano) and showed he was a football player. We would see him in scout squad situations and he was making plays on our first-team defense, and it got to a point that he needed to be in the game. Starting off on special teams and then having an opportunity, I just remember the New England game where he ran for over 100-something yards, just made it look easy. And sometimes, development and maturity of players just come to be, and I'm very happy that I was there to see it, a guy that had talent and he committed himself to working hard and being in the system the right way. It speaks for itself. Just a terrific effort to get himself in that level, because you get free agent players, they wash out most of the time. You get some that make it, but it's a credit to Arian and what he was able to accomplish, because he was knocked down sometimes as a rookie in scout squad and all that. He was knocked down, but he got up and he fought his way all the way up to the top."
How about Ben Tate?
"First of all, you've got to have to have confidence in yourself, and Ben's a very confident guy. He feels that the sky's the limit for him, and I can appreciate it. He's eager to play. He doesn't mix any words with it. He feels that he can be the best in the league, and that's what you have to be. When he goes out there and he gets on a hot streak running the football and catching the football, you can see that he has the talent to be as good as he wants to be. It's healthy for our football team. It's going to make Arian better, and it's going to make him better, because he's striving to be like Arian."
You were here for the first 10 years. Do you think you've got another 10 in you?
"(Laughs) That's like, 'Yeah, I saw the Model T being built, now it's time to see what we can do now.' I'm taking it one year at a time. I'm loving what I'm doing. The main objective is I would like to get the big show. Haven't been there. I've been to two (conference) championship games, and I would just love to be with the Texans going to the Super Bowl. But that's a lot of work to do between now and then. That's my goal, but I'll just take it as it goes. One year at a time. I'm excited about getting up every morning and excited about seeing my players and coaching my players, and that's what means a lot to me. It's a job, but it's fun to be around young people and fun to be around a coaching staff that's energetic and they're going after being the best in the world."