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For USF’s Nigel Harris, third time the charm with hometown Bucs

By Greg Auman | Times staff writer
Published: January 3, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2018 at 09:02 AM
Linebacker Nigel Harris, shown with USF last season, made his Bucs debut on special teams in Sunday's season finale against the Saints.(OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES)

Nigel Harris did not register a tackle in Sunday's Bucs win against the Saints, and did not play a single snap on defense.

But the former Hillsborough High and USF standout made his Bucs debut on special teams, playing 17 snaps and getting a head start on making his case for a roster spot in 2018.

"It was quite an experience," said Harris, 23. "Just felt great being back in Raymond James Stadium, the stadium I played for the last four years at USF. It felt good giving the hometown something to look at, giving encouragement and trying to give the younger crowd something positive."

Harris made the Chargers' roster as an undrafted rookie and had 11 tackles in five games. He was cut and landed with the Giants, had one tackle in two games but was waived with a rib injury. Once healthy, he landed with the Bucs and was quickly promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, dressing for the first time in Sunday's win.

"That's what it's all about, coming in here, understanding what's going on, understanding the culture and being a part of it and helping the team get over that hump where I know I can be," Harris said.

Harris is the first player to play his high school and college football in Tampa and also play in a regular-season game for the Bucs.

The closest before would be former USF linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who played for the Bucs for three games in 2010. He went to high school at Riverview, just southeast of Tampa. Two other Bucs were also close: Long-snapper Ryan Benjamin (2002-03) played at USF and was one county north of Tampa at River Ridge in New Port Richey; cornerback Mike Jenkins (2014-15) played at USF and went to high school just south at Bradenton Southeast.

Tackle Darryl Carlton, who played for the Bucs from 1977-79, played in college at the University of Tampa, but went to high school in Fort Meade, 52 miles southeast of Tampa.

Receiver Andre Davis, who played at Jefferson and USF, was on the Bucs' practice squad in 2015 and played in the preseason in 2016, but never played in a regular-season game.

The Bucs have three solid linebackers in Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith, but Harris' goal is to make his case for one of the backup jobs next season.

"I'm blessed for every opportunity that's been given to me. I'm really, really blessed for this opportunity, so I'm going to try to hang on as long as I can," he said.