Wali Lundy was a rookie running back with the Texans last year the first time he saw it. He recalls the practice well.
Lundy had just broken into the clear and was well ahead of the last defender on a breakaway run. Still, something, *SOMEONE *was gaining on him.
But not to worry – it was just Texans running backs coach Chick Harris.
"I was laughing," Lundy said. "It was the first time I'd seen something like that. But it's good to have him out there and to be so enthusiastic like that.
"He's animated. He can get after you. If he sees a play downfield, he'll start chasing you downfield. It's good to have that enthusiasm for the running backs. And it's good for an offense to see a coach who is that into it, and I think it's just good for us in general."
Veteran fullback Vonta Leach sees Harris the same way.
"His personality is he's very energetic," Leach said. "You see him on the tapes in practice running behind the running backs telling them to get up field. He's a guy who has a lot of enthusiasm.
"He's a good coach. He's a players' coach who takes care of his guys and teaches you a lot."
Harris has coached for 37 years, the last 26 in the NFL, and pleads guilty to all of the above.
"I think I'm very active," Harris said. "I feel what the players are feeling. I want to feel that because it gives me an idea of what I have to do next to get them to play well.
"It's so important that you show energy and they know it's real. Because then they will be an energized player when they have to perform for you and that's most important."
Harris has worked for some of the top names in football and says he learned a lot from them.
"First of all, I have to credit Don James at the University of Washington," Harris said. "I coached defensive backs at that time. He was a real stickler for detail and also making sure that people had energy on the field.
"After two Rose Bowls there, I went to Buffalo and worked for Chuck Knox for 14 years (following Knox to the Seahawks and Rams). That's where I really learned the pro game and coaching on offense and doing the things it takes to .be a winner."
Harris has coached some of the NFL's top running backs along the way, like Curt Warner, who was Rookie of the Year with the Seahawks in 1983, and Pro Bowler Jerome Bettis of the Rams. He also has helped young players like Anthony Johnson at Carolina and Domanick Williams at Houston each gain 1,000 yards.
Now he has perennial 1,000-yard rusher Ahman Green in the backfield. Harris approaches all the players alike, even a four-time Pro Bowler like Green.
"I think he's talented, but my basic coaching style doesn't change," Harris said of Green. "You just have a little more talent to deal with. Ahman Green is a consummate pro and he wants to get better.
"He asks questions like a rookie would ask questions. That's the mark of a real fine player and a fine veteran. It's not how many years you've been in the league. You have to treat it like it's your first year."
Green likes the way Harris coaches.
"I haven't been here that long, but from what I've seen he's more of an old-style coach," Green said. "He's got a few older guys like myself and Ron Dayne and Vonta Leach, so we kind of know what needs to be done. What he does is definitely jog our memories on certain plays we need to know and alert us to new formations and things like that.
"For the most part, he lets us go and with the group we've got, it's good because we know a lot of this offense and these plays that are coming at us. He also works with the young guys really well to get them up to speed."
Like Lundy, who started 10 games last year and rushed for 476 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.
"He's just helped me with learning," Lundy said. "He always helps you pick things up a little faster. He's always in the huddle trying to help you get it down. He doesn't want you going out there not knowing what you're doing. So he always stays on you to help you stay on top of your game."
Harris has a simple approach to his coaching style.
"First I try to be a good person," he said. "I treat people the way they want to be treated. I try to work as hard as anybody else and I try to make sure I get the most out of my players all the time.
"Some players are different and you have to find out what their buttons are to push. They all have them. They wouldn't be at this level if they didn't have them. You want to make sure they are the best. And in order to be the best, you have to train that way. So when things get tough, you can give the ball to them and they will be successful."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.