He spent three seasons in baseball's minor leagues
BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - Kay-Jay Harris feels like he has plenty of tread left on his tires as a running back after spending three years playing minor league baseball.

Harris has been signed by the St. Louis Rams to fill the roster spot previously held by running back Tony Fisher.

Fisher has been placed on injured reserve because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

"Football wears on you, and you're career is shortened because of all the banging," Harris said. "I'm starting fresh. I didn't play a lot in college because of the system.

"I didn't take a lot of beatings in college, and I haven't taken a lot of beatings in the NFL yet."

At 27, Harris said he might be a little older than most first-year players, but he said his body is young.

"I still haven't had my body beaten down on," said Harris, who was wearing No. 33 at practice Wednesday. "When I go home and play basketball, I still dunk, I still do (360-degree spinning dunks), I still have a 40-inch vertical. I still feel young.

"I feel like a little kid in the candy store. I'm just happy to be able to do something."

Harris was drafted by the Texas Rangers out of high school, and he spent three years playing center field in the minor leagues. He never played higher than Class A, and never hit better than .224.

Harris said playing professional baseball forced him to grow up in a hurry.

"Being out on my own since I was 18 years old, living alone with money in my pocket ... unlike most guys who played in college and then come to the NFL, I experienced that already with playing baseball," Harris said.

Harris returned to football in 2001 with Garden City (Kan.) Community College, and then transferred to West Virginia in 2003.

Harris rushed for 1,483 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons with the Mountaineers.

Harris said he never played with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, another West Virginia alumni, but he had met him before Wednesday.

"I know his sisters a lot since they were there with me, but I saw him at times when he came in during the offseason for some of the charity events and golf tournaments," Harris said. "We spoke several times. We spoke today out on the field."

Harris spent the entire 2005 season and the first three games of the 2006 season on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.

Harris said he was glad to finally be on a 53-man roster.

"Man, you have no idea," Harris said. "I used to get ragged back home by some of the guys about being on the John Madden (video game) football team, but not playing for real.

"It's definitely a relief. I feel like a big burden is off my back now."

Rams coach Scott Linehan was familiar with Harris after spending last season as offensive coordinator for the Dolphins.

"He knows our offense," Linehan said of Harris. "He knows the terminology. That's a big hurdle. He certainly knows our running game, and our protection.

"He's a downhill runner, and has very good hands. He has good speed. He's one of those guys who's a little bit similar to Fish (Tony Fisher), in that he can kind of do a lot of things pretty well."

Linehan said the Rams' coaching staff thought Harris was a better option than Fred Russell, who is currently on the team's practice squad, because of his special teams ability.

"His ability to basically immediately start on three or four special teams," said Linehan, of what set Harris apart from Russell. "We certainly considered Fred."

Curtis shakes off big hit

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis will play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday despite suffering bruised ribs on the final play of the team's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Curtis wasn't even listed on the Rams' injury, meaning he's pretty much a sure thing against the Chiefs.

"A little sore, a little tender, but it's not too bad," Curtis said of his injury.

Curtis lay on the field for several minutes after the game trying to catch his breath.

"I've had the wind knocked out of me plenty of times, but that kind of tops it as far as the time it took for me to get my wind back," Curtis said.

Curtis said he had yet to see the hit that he took from Chiefs safety Sammy Knight after making a 23-yard reception.

"We watched the film the other day, but we didn't get to the last couple of plays," Curtis said.

Coach of the Week

Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller is the recipient of the Rams' High School Coach of the Week.

Moeller guided the Indians to a 25-20 win over Mount Zion last week in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.

The Indians are 10-1 and ranked No. 9 in The Associated Press' Class 4A state poll. They'll host Mount Carmel at 1 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A playoffs.

Moeller joins Alton's Joe Hook as the only metro-east coaches to receive the Coach of the Week honor this season.



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