NFL star Charles Harris talks about giving back to his KC high school
Lincoln Prep alum and former Mizzou football star Charles Harris has figured out what to do with some of the millions he's making these days as a Miami Dolphins defensive end:
He donated $100,000 toward the renovation of the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy football stadium.
"High school is where it all began for me," Harris said by phone Friday from his home in Miami. "This is a great opportunity for me to give back to my high school, to my community, for me to say to others that it is OK, ... it's cool."
Harris, who grew up around 31st and Spruce streets, was also involved in basketball, cross-country and track and field at Lincoln. He is hoping to encourage other district alumni to give back to their schools as well.
When Harris was suiting up at Lincoln — he graduated in 2013 — "the football field wasn't game ready," he said. So the Lincoln Tigers could only practice there and had to play off-site at an interscholastic field.
Harris' donation will help the field meet state football competition standards. It's part of a $3.5 million stadium project including new turf, scoreboards, a press box and field lighting. The bleachers will seat 1,000, more than double what is available today.
The track is currently paved and can't be used for practice or competition. It will be resurfaced with rubber and marked for competition.
"We expect to bid the field in November and award it in January with completion of the project to be early August of 2019, in time for the 2019-2020 football season," said Nicole Collier-White, executive director of the Kansas City Public School District Foundation, which was started in 2012, as the district's fundraising arm.
Harris will attend a July 12 groundbreaking and evening alumni event to celebrate 150 years of Kansas City Public Schools.
"He is kind of being our champion," Collier-White said. "It's pretty phenomenal. He didn't go back to his college, he went back to his high school where he first discovered his love of football and learning."
Collier-White said she has been working with Harris for about a year "to help him find ways to use his money with the district."
Last year, after a celebrated four years on the gridiron at University of Missouri, Harris signed a four-year, $11 million contract that included a $6 million bonus with the Miami Dolphins.
In March, he bought a new house for his mom, Deborah Clark, who struggles with multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. The house is in his grandparents' hometown of Tifton, Ga.
By the way, Harris said, "my mom, she is doing well." Buying her dream home, he said was his No. 1 goal.
Now it's about "giving back to my roots that got me here," Harris said. "When you make it, you are supposed to give back." He said he has no interest in adorning himself with flashy jewelry. "I've never been about that."
He's more interested, he said, in showing love and gratitude to the people and institutions that helped him succeed. "I'm just giving to Lincoln before giving to Mizzou. I love Mizzou. That's where it happened."
At Lincoln, the first time he walked into the team room, then-head coach Lee Allen "asked me what I was doing in there, and I said I was there with somebody else," Harris said.
"He was like, 'Oh, I thought you wanted to play football.' I said, no, and then somebody on the team was like, 'He's too scared.' I got laughed at. That's what inspired me to play."
And it inspired his words of advice for KC youth:
"Don't let anybody ever tell you what you can't do," he said. "You can do anything you really want."
As for Harris' accomplishments on the field and off: "It's really not about me," he said. "I didn't get me here. Jesus did. It's not my works, it's my faith."