Vikings safety Anthony Harris had one main goal this offseason -- add more weight. Find out how he transformed his body in the weight room.
Updated: August 6, 2018, 1:20 p.m.
By: Daniel House
Every player has goals they want to accomplish in the offseason. For Vikings’ safety Anthony Harris, it all started in a Richmond, Va. weight room.
Since arriving in Minnesota, Harris has been consistently adding weight and evolving physically. The converted safety entered the league weighing just 186 pounds. During the final stages of his college career at Virginia, a torn labrum and hand injury kept Harris out of the weight room for a significant period of time. This absence drastically impacted his physical growth and routine.
When the Vikings added Harris via undrafted free agency in 2015, they knew it was just the beginning of his physical development.
It has taken the safety a few years to continue adding muscle and overall explosiveness. Entering his fourth season with the Vikings, Harris has added 19 pounds in just over three years. After easing back into the weight room, he is beginning to notice the progress he has made.
“My meals and eating were a little off, so it took a little while to adjust to that,” Harris said. “Just getting back in the weight room, my main focus was just building strength and trying to get that explosiveness back and then as the year went on and I was able to maintain that, that’s when I was starting to put on size. Now I’ve gotten up to 205 since then.”
Harris spent the offseason training at Elkin Sports Performance in his hometown of Richmond, Va. He not only focused on the physical training, but nutritional planning. He tracked his calories and protein intake to correlate it with his workout schedule. Harris said learning how to eat right is the key to success.
“I would say just gathering the information, mainly,” Harris said. “Getting the right information about how much calories I need to take in, the amount of protein, how many meals a day, getting that type of stuff.”
In conjunction with the planning, Harris worked with a personal trainer to improve his speed, strength and explosiveness. All of those areas are aided by the physical improvement Harris made a priority this offseason.
“This offseason I just tried to continue improving all around. Working on my speed, using my strength, trying to put on a little more weight this year, so I could be more durable and a lot stronger and more explosive.”
With all of his physical growth, it’s been easy to see Harris’ improvement against the run in training camp. When in the box, he has been making plays and blowing up runs on the edge. This disruptive presence is something Harris has always emphasized, but the additional weight has helped him become more effective in this role.
“That’s one thing I’ve tried to add this offseason is just to get in the weight room more and just put on more weight so I can be even more effective when it comes to the physicality in the box,” Harris said.
This is another valuable addition to Harris’ skill-set as he strives to become more versatile. A core special teams player and reserve safety, his impact is already quietly vital to the Vikings’ success. He has started three games in the past two seasons in relief of starter Andrew Sendejo. Last season, his forced fumble in a Week 11 game against the Los Angeles Rams was a key play in a 24-7 win. He also made a pivotal run stop on third down in the NFC Championship to set up the Minneapolis Miracle.
So how does a backup safety make sure he is ready in those situations?
Harris said being a student of the game has him prepared for every possible situation. Whether it’s being lined up correctly on special teams or making an adjustment defensively, Harris is constantly processing what’s in front of him. He notices tendencies in the film room and applies them on the field.
“I’ve always been a pretty locked in guy. Not just in practice, but in the meeting rooms,” Harris said. “So I think that allowed me to be able to make a transition like that from taking more snaps on special teams to suddenly jumping in on defense. Just mentally preparing and the physical part is just there, so it’s just having your mind right, having the right attitude and then going out there and being effective.”
Dating back to his college days at Virginia, Harris has stressed the importance of not just learning his role, but the responsibilities of everyone around him. It helped him notch 188 tackles and ten interceptions during his final two collegiate seasons.
Now, after playing in Mike Zimmer’s defense for three full seasons, Harris is starting to understand how the player next to him impacts his role.
“I think the mental aspect [of the game] has always been a pretty strong suit of mine. Being able to pick up on things pretty fast and understanding different concepts,” Harris said. “Once I was able to pick up on my responsibilities in the defense, I was able to branch out a little bit more and learn what the guys around me are doing and how I fit and then just putting that together based upon how the plays develop.”
With Harris’ football IQ and improved physical frame, the young safety could be turning the corner in his development as an NFL player. Starter Andrew Sendejo is in a contract year and Harris could be positioning himself well for a larger role.
However, no matter what happens, Harris isn't shifting away from the mentality he developed when entering the league.
“Come in and keep the level of energy up or raise the level of energy whenever I’m called,” Harris said.