Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos is getting a kick out of his new cleats — designed by Gunnison High School (GHS) student Morgan Crosby.
Recently, a group of youth mentorship programs — including the Gunnison Valley Mentors program — entered a National Football League (NFL) shoe design contest.
The league started “My Cause My Cleats” in 2016, giving athletes the opportunity to sport cleats designed to represent a cause of their choice. Although many players opted to commission professional assistance in designing their cleats, Denver Broncos cornerback Harris Jr. had another idea.
He partnered with Mentor Colorado to see what sort of designs students could conjure up for his cleats.
Mentees from Goodwill Industries of Denver, Denver Kids Inc., Denver Urban Scholars, Friends First and Gunnison Valley Mentors each participated in creating a unique design.
Carson Wagner of the Gunnison Valley Mentors program was quick to tell his mentee — Crosby — about the opportunity this past summer.
Crosby was all in. But since he didn't know Harris Jr. personally, he had to think on his feet about what to draw.
For Crosby, the competition offered a unique opportunity for players to truly express their style on the field, and he wanted Harris Jr.’s shoes to shine.
“They don’t really get to show what they like to wear, because obviously they all have to wear the same jersey,” explained Crosby, who also looked at Harris Jr.’s style off the field to inspire his shoe design. “I tried to match his design and his style.”
Following online sleuthing of Harris Jr.’s social media posts, Crosby found his inspiration — the Underdog Success Program. The program, created in 2013, works to challenge students to excel in the classroom, contribute to their community and become active.
In 2017, Harris Jr. was chosen as the Denver Broncos’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his leadership both on the field and in the community. Each summer, he holds the Underdog Academy Football and Cheer Camp in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., teaching young athletes football fundamentals and lessons in leadership.
Crosby’s design — which highlights Harris Jr.’s charity of choice — dons the word “Underdog” across the cleat with Bronco’s blue and orange to match. It’s a good start for Crosby.
A junior at GHS this year, he was certainly surprised to see his cleat design rise to the top, but it didn't hit him until he was in Denver visiting other students and players.
“Everybody was there, a lot of news. The media for the NFL sort of kicked it all into perspective for me because I knew that all of that was going to happen, I just didn't really realize what a big deal it was,” laughed Crosby.
With a love of photography and graphic design, the cleat creation came naturally to Crosby, who hopes to pursue graphic design and business after graduation.
“Really, the biggest thing I was proud of him for was that he really took the initiative with all of it, he was on the e-mail chains, submitted everything himself, was up to date with schedule changes and everything,” mentor Wagner said of Crosby. “For him, I think that’s a big step.”
Harris Jr. will sport his custom cleats designed by Crosby for the battle against the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 2.
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)