Former player Ryan Harris returns as color commentator for Notre Dame
Former Notre Dame player Ryan Harris has certainly had an interesting career. First getting attention on the MTV documentary "I Want the Perfect Body" when he was just in high school. He's taken advantage of every opportunity since then to reach the pinnacle of the sport but he's proving there's life after football and he's living it to the fullest.
Harris had his pick of elite programs including Miami and Michigan but it was an official visit to South Bend that made the decision for him.
"It was amazing. It was here at Notre Dame Stadium after they beat Michigan, there was a guy, everybody rushed the field. He tapped me on the shoulder, I don't know this guy to this day, and he said 'I know who you are, I know why you're here, but if you come to Notre Dame you're going to be more than just a number, you're going to be part of the family.' And then he just turned around and left and that had a lasting impact on me," Harris said.
Harris was the starting offensive tackle from 2003 to 2006.
Harris helped the Irish to 19 victories in his final two seasons at Notre Dame and was the 70th overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. He bounced around with 5 teams, battling injuries but in his 3rd stint in Denver the Broncos made it to Super Bowl 50 beating the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
"My NFL career had ups and downs but every success story has its failures. And for me to be able to, in my 9th season, after failing 8 times to win a Super Bowl. After going to the team that had drafted me and released me and then brought me back with the Broncos. It was such an amazing moment," Harris said.
Harris finished his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers retiring in 2017 after 10 seasons in the NFL
"I mean, my first game with Notre Dame was at Heinz Field playing Pittsburgh and my last game in the NFL was playing at Heinz Field playing for Pittsburgh. And so that journey and everything in between is just so remarkable and I'm just so grateful for every moment," Harris said.
Retirement brought about a new challenge for Ryan Radio.
He hosts a sports talk radio show in Denver and last season he was the co host of the official Notre Dame post game radio show through Fighting Irish Digital Media.
This fall he was named the color analyst for the new radio team of Notre Dame Football and JMI Sports alongside play by play announcer Paul Burmeister and side line reporter Jack Nolan.
"I tell ya, hey, here's the human element of the game, here's what it means. Winning a big game like this, this is what it does for a player and what it does for his career. You know I talk to a lot of the scouts I know from the NFL before the game and during the game. So I get a lot of information about which guys are going to go into the draft and I get to share that information. And they played Navy and it was a knock out drag out game and I get to talk about the stats don't matter here. The only thing that matters when you play Navy is a win, because of the way you play so really taking the Notre Dame faithful fans into the in's and out's and behind the scenes of what it sounds like, feels like and the experiences of athletes," Harris said.
While he loves his new role with the radio team it's his job as father to his daughter, Betty, and son, Will, and a third baby on the way that's most rewarding.
"I love being able to bring them back here to Notre Dame and really to be a part of their life every day. We moved 18 times in 5 years and had 2 kids in the NFL. That's a lot of movement. So, to slow it down and contribute, that's where my joy is," Harris said.
Some of that joy has been the most surprising.
"When I was a player here, after you come out after a game, everybody's like 'Here, take a picture with my baby.' I was thinking, who brings their kids here? And the moment my son was born, I was like 'I got to get him to Notre Dame.' Almost like a baptism of sorts. He's got to see Touchdown Jesus, even though he doesn't know it. He's got to get a picture with the Golden Dome behind him, even though he doesn't know it. So being able to bring my son and daughter to the place where I grew up as a man was just incredibly powerful," Harris said.