FFG: Kenetria Harris

This month’s Featured Football Girl, Kenetria Harris is a woman with one of the hardest jobs in the NFL: a player’s wife.  In this in-depth interview, Harris, the newlywed wife of Bears safety, Chris Harris talks candidly about the skepticism she had dating a professional athlete, as well as the emotional stress of watching her soul mate get hit hard week after week.  Plus, we discuss the steps the Harris family has undertaken to ensure their security in case of a lockout, which Harris believes is a distinct possibility.

She also recounts the oh so sweet and extremely modern way (think Mark Zuckerberg) they kicked off their relationship. And Harris, a former stockbroker, tells us of her philanthropic future plans.

Harris is also a serious student of the game, something Chris may not appreciate when he’s blown coverage and has to hear about it from his real coach.

Chris and Kenetria Harris on their wedding day in Aruba!

The Football Girl: Let’s start with the Bears.  Talk about the emotions you had watching that Monday Night game.

Kenetria Harris: It’s always an emotional thing to have a loved one, especially a husband or son, playing football. You have to fear if they’re going to get hurt, is it day-to-day, something they can bounce back from or life threatening.  You go into the game with this mentality in the first place.  So Monday night, aside from the actual game itself, when Chris was hurt earlier my heart started beating fast. A couple of guys sitting next to me told me, ‘He’s okay. He’s okay.” Complete strangers, but you could definitely see the emotional stress on my face.  I was trying to keep it together because I had our kids with us and once he got up I still wasn’t completely ok.  The funny thing is he told me after the game that the first thing he thought was of was me freaking out in the stands.  And I said, ‘I really was.’ It’s hard to see him laying on the ground from up there and have no idea what’s wrong with him.

The other side of the emotional struggle is just the game itself. It’s so stressful. There’s so many things that we as fans feel like we would do or we know that they should be doing.  So you’re getting yourself more and more emotionally attached to what’s going on out there on the field.  I have to use Twitter as my emotional release when I can’t really say what I want to say to keep my composure.

TFG:  Do you ever critique Chris after games?

KH: Oh yeah, all the time. I’ll give him my review and ask him how he thinks he did and he’ll say ‘I think I did pretty well’ or ‘I could have played better’ and then I’ll start bringing up things I saw like ‘that was a good hit in the 1st half’ or ‘you missed coverage in the 2nd half.’ He’ll explain to me why he missed the coverage or the defensive scheme they were running. He explains it because I just see the same thing the fans do – it looks like blown coverage or he wasn’t there when he needed to be, and he’ll say ‘no, that wasn’t my guy.’ I’ll always critique him after the games. Sometimes he’s receptive.

Daniel Manning told me after a preseason game that Chris had said in the locker room that I was going to let him have it. Oh yeah, I did.

TFG: Now I can tell by Twitter that you are an across-the-board football fan.  How did you become such a big fan and what is your favorite team, other than the Bears of course?

KH: I became a football fan as a young girl, probably about nine or ten.  I have six older brothers, all of whom played football, and it was kind of mandatory that you watch football in our house.  At that age I was watching the Cowboys because we’re from Arkansas and the closest NFL team to us was the Cowboys.  Those were the years of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, all those guys.

I liked football then but took a little hiatus once I got older.  I didn’t get back into it until I met Chris because I was more into college football.  I would say a few years ago, prior to meeting Chris, I really liked the Eagles because I love Donovan McNabb and I still like the Eagles, but by default I have to call myself a Bears fan.

TFG: Now I was reading the wonderful article Essence.com did on your recent wedding and it described your relationship as kicking off via Facebook.  I want to know what Chris said to you in that initial Facebook message.

KH:  It actually started before Facebook, with My Space. It was about two years prior, just very casually with a ‘hey, what’s up, how’ve you been?’ I think at the time he was playing with the Bears before he got traded to Carolina.  He was with the Bears I think the year they went to the Super Bowl, so on his wall it said lots of “Good luck in the Super Bowl” messages. So I didn’t need to ask him what he was doing, so I simply replied and told him I was good.  That was it.

But then two years ago, he sent me a friend request on Facebook with another ‘hey, how are you?’ message, and I again told him I was good and left it alone.  But then I saw he had a status saying he was bored or something. and I said ‘be careful because they say online is the devil’s workshop.’  From that point on he started sending me messages and putting things on my wall. Chris and I wound up IM’ing on the Facebook chat for about two months. We would set a time to chat and didn’t exchange phone numbers for two months. We’d just chat on Facebook for hours every night.

TFG: Ah, modern love! I think we need to share your story with (Facebook Founder) Mark Zuckerberg.

TFG: Moving on, now after you realized you and Chris were soul mates and would be together forever, what were some of your preconceived notions about being married to an NFL player?

KH:  I was very skeptical, even dating one. When we were talking on Facebook, it was strictly platonic, even the first time I visited him in Charlotte and for the first five months really.  He knew my reservations about dating athletes; actually I was both anti-athlete and musician.  I never had a bad experience, that was just my preference. You just hear all these stories, and as a woman you think ‘I’m not even going to deal with that.’ Then he suggested we try it and if it didn’t work we could just be friends. We started dating, and about four months later he proposed. Even leading up to our wedding I was willing to wait.

It’s obviously a lot you have to deal with, outside of the emotional aspect of him getting injured. You have to deal with the women.  They are cutthroat. Women in general are cutthroat.  I think women are more competitive than guys.  I’m lucky to have a guy that’s completely honest with me, that’s my best friend, that respects our marriage and respects me as his wife. That has really calmed me and calmed whatever reservations I had regarding marrying an athlete.

TFG: When you refer to the other women, are you talking about women that want to date athletes for the wrong reasons?

KH:  Oh yeah, definitely. The groupies.  Any professional athlete has his own set of groupies; I tell people this all the time.  Men who are successful with a lot of money.  You have a lot of women that see that side of it, and they don’t care about anything else. They just want someone to take care of them, or who they can be with for status purposes.  You hear about all these athletes cheating on their wives – those are the women I’m talking about that don’t care if the guy is married. They think, ‘I’m still going to see if I can make him leave his wife and be with me,’ not understanding it never works out that way. That was one of the reservations I had.

I mean, you see all these guys in the media and I don’t think these guys are superhuman, so I think some of them fall victim to temptation. I don’t think they intentionally go into a marriage thinking they’re going to cheat on their wife, but at the same time they need to keep their guard up.  Like I said with Chris, I feel completely comfortable with Chris, trusting him 110% and the decision he’s made in our relationship.  And even beforehand.  As I said, he’s my best friend and he tells me when those girls say those things to him and we just laugh about it together.

TFG: You wrote a great guest post on Chris’s blog, hitmanharris.com, about going through the first training camp.  Overall, what was the experience like for you guys and do you think the time apart brought you closer together, especially being newlyweds?

KH: I think for me, I basically spent that time moving from Charlotte to Chicago, so I kept myself busy, but it was those nights by myself that were tough.  And I didn’t get a chance to talk to him all day. He’d call me around noon and we’d chat for literally ten minutes, and he’d call me at the end at like 10:30 and we’d talk for 15 minutes.   Because he was so tired practicing, his conversation was so blah.  I’d have to tell him to just go to bed.  I think that time apart brought us closer together and more appreciative of each other.

TFG: What are some of your plans moving forward?  Being married to an NFL player opens up a lot of doors and you don’t seem like the type of woman who would be content staring at your walls every day.  So any plans you can divulge?

KH: Prior to meeting and marrying Chris I was working as a stockbroker in Nashville and I had done it for five years. When I moved to Charlotte in March, I was thinking he was going to be with the Panthers.  It’s banking central over there, so of course I could find a job doing finance in this city. But in May, he was traded. So it kind of makes you put those things on hold.  Right now, I’m still doing day trading for our own personal account.  I keep my son at home with me, and he certainly keeps me on my toes. And I’m working on getting Chris’s foundation started up and established.  Hopefully we’ll have it up and running by the end of this year. Once he’s done playing, maybe I can jump back into my career.  But it’s here now because my career requires me to stay in one place in terms of setting up a clientele.

TFG: How closely are you guys following the CBA negotiations?  Obviously you’re directly affected if Chris loses his health care in March and there’s a lockout.  Do you ever discuss this and what do you guys think is going to happen ultimately?

KH: Oh, We talk about it constantly because we have to mindful of those things, especially given this economy we’re in.  We have to cut back on spending and make sure we have enough to cover our living expenses for next year.  He might not have a salary next year.  Most of the guys think the lockout is going to come next season; they’re about 80% convinced they’re not going to have a job next season. I personally don’t think it’s going to happen.  But then again, you saw what happened in baseball and the fan backlash.  A lot of businesses will feel the wrath of not having football – sports bars, apparel outfits, businesses by the stadiums.  I’m praying it doesn’t happen but the guys really think it will.

Right now we’re taking the necessary steps we need to prepare.  But the guys I feel worse for are these young guys, one or two years in. They haven’t had an opportunity to save, and they’re coming right out of college with a natural instinct to spend. They’re not going to be able to maintain these new homes or cars they’ve bought so they have to go out and get real jobs, some of them. The vets like Chris have financial advisors that put us in a good position so we’ll be fine during this period.

TFG: Very last thing – how about a Bears record prediction?

KH: Oh man, I think we’ll go 13-3.  I think our stiff competition will come from Green Bay when we play them there the last game of the season. Also, New England and I think Miami will bolster a little competition as well.  Minnesota , I’m not really convinced they’re a really solid team yet.

TFG:  Well thank you so much for the time.  Look forward to seeing your foundation work.

KH:  Thank you.