DENVER — Shelby Harris awoke at 7 a.m. Sunday in Los Angeles to pounding on his hotel door. Ray Jackson, the Broncos director of player development, stood outside with an important message.
Shelby Harris' pregnant wife, Stephanie, had been trying to reach him. Her water broke, creating anxiety about Harris' ability to attend the birth in Colorado. How much time did he have? Could he make it back? In the end, Harris played against the Los Angeles Chargers — and performed well — and hustled from the locker room to a police escort ushering him to a charter flight arranged by the Broncos.
He reached the hospital for the arrival of Shelby Lamar Harris Jr., the couple's fourth child at 10:46 p.m.
"Wife and baby are good. I cut the umbilical cord. I pulled the baby out. It was a really special moment," Harris said Tuesday. "It was crazy. I want to thank the Broncos for going above and beyond what they had to do to make sure I got back. It really meant a lot to me and my family. We will forever be grateful."
Harris, 29, has turned child birth into unforgettable moments connected to football. Two years ago, Harris took his stance at the 2-yard line with 67 seconds remaining against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh needed a touchdown to send the game into overtime. With the rowdies in the South Stands at full throat, Ben Roethlisberger faked a handoff, stood up and threw, um, right into Harris’ mitts. It completed a 48-hour run of goosebumps for the big guy.
On Friday before the game his wife gave birth to the couple’s third child, daughter Evelyn. He gave the ball from his first interception to Stephanie.
Oh, Baby, indeed.
“What a way to end it!” Harris said. "I am running on fumes, but I can't complain. I am on cloud nine.”
This latest experience was similar but different. Harris raced out of SoFi Stadium following the Broncos' 19-16 loss to the Chargers. He was still sweating on the way to the airport. Though the flight had a delay, Harris made it to the delivery room with a few minutes to spare.
"Just so special," Harris said.
It has been a chaotic blur over the past month for Harris. His family contracted COVID-19, leading him to quarantine. He eventually got the virus, and missed four games. As much as it stung, he will never forget "being able to spend time with them before the new baby arrived."
While it took a few weeks to regain his conditioning, Harris has remained a disruptive force on the field. He leads the Broncos with seven passes defensed -- there is no NFL lineman better at batting balls down at the line of scrimmage -- and boasts 32 tackles with 2.5 sacks. Harris will enter free agency again, absent of a presumptive contract strike by the Broncos. The market fell on Harris last spring as he returned on a one-year deal.
In an ideal world, he would love to stay in Denver.
"My job is to go out and play well and leave it up to my agent. But Denver, we have had two of our kids here. This is home," Harris said. "Obviously, Denver is a special place for me. They gave me my first real chance in the league, to go out there and really be a player and trust me to go out and do my job. They have rewarded me with four years playing for this great franchise. I am forever grateful, but I understand it's a business."
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