One of the highlights at the Kansas spring game was seeing all of the former players inside Memorial Stadium. Head coach David Beaty and the alumni association reached out to several former players to come back for a weekend centered around the spring game.
On Friday they had a golf outing and an event that evening. On Saturday they attended the spring game. Getting the players involved has been something Beaty wanted to do from the day he was hired.
Three-time Pro Bowl selection Chris Harris from the Denver Broncos likes what he has seen from Beaty and getting former players back to Lawrence. Many of the players know Beaty from his days as an assistant coach.
“I think there is a different energy,” Harris said. “I know he has tried to involve the former players to be able to speak about life to those kids. That’s what he did for us at the spring game and it was an amazing experience. It means a lot because he was actually here with us (as an assistant). He understands that, and wants to get it back to the level when we won a lot of games.”
Harris signed with Kansas in the 2007 class. After helping the Jayhawks to two straight bowl wins he was signed by Denver in 2011. He has played on a Super Bowl winning team and been selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls.
He spoke to the team about what it means to compete every day and challenge each other. Harris has followed the Jayhawks and believes Beaty is making strides and has the program going in the right direction.
“What people don’t understand is Beaty came in with the death penalty and a small amount of scholarship players trying to play in the Big 12,” Harris said. “For him to strategize and almost get us back to where we are, and caught up with the rest of the teams in the Big 12 I think he is doing a great job.”
JaCorey Shepherd, a cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, remembers Beaty back to the days of recruiting. Beaty was also on staff when Shepherd played for the Jayhawks.
“I’m not surprised how well he’s doing because he is a people’s person and a player’s coach,” Shepherd said. “He wants the best for the University and the players. It was great that he invited us all back. When the players understand the coaches are for them, they are more willing to put it all on the line.”
Shepherd was drafted by the Eagles in 2015 and the signed by San Francisco last year. Right after the spring game he left Lawrence and headed to camp. Like Harris, Shepherd has been following the program since he left.
“I love what he’s (Beaty) trying to do with the program,” he said. “Personally I feel like this is the year the ball will get rolling a little bit. Now that he’s gotten some of his recruits in and getting back to normal scholarships I feel like the program is turning.”
It was a good weekend as several former players got a chance to reunite and get back around the Jayhawk program. Although Harris left six years ago he said it felt like college all over again for a couple days.
“It was great being able to be around all of my teammates and it felt like college,” he said. “You kind of take it for granted all of the fun times we had and how fun it was. It was good to revisit those memories and be able to talk to a lot of the guys I haven’t talked to in a long time.”