SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — All eyes were on Chris Harper Sunday morning.
The former Oregon quarterback and receiver had six cameras and a dozen reporters waiting for him at a media function. Kansas State’s Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein had just one camera waiting for him.
After all, it’s not everyday a player gets to face his old team in the Fiesta Bowl, even though K-State linebacker Arthur Brown is 2-0 against his former Miami Hurricanes. Harper played the first game of his college career as a Duck and will play the last game of his career against the Ducks.
The receiver transferred to K-State four years ago after playing his freshman season at Oregon when now head coach Chip Kelly was still the offensive coordinator. Harper started the year at QB, playing five games before moving to receiver upon his request. In fact, during the 2008 season, Harper became the first Duck in eight years to pass, rush and catch a touchdown in the same season.
“I wasn’t going to sit on the bench and watch when I knew I could be on the field,” said Harper, who has never played quarterback for K-State.
In his short time in Eugene, the Wichita native completed 4-of-9 passes for 40 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions, rushed 35 times for 137 yards and two scores and caught nine passes for another 122 yards and two more TDs.
The thought initially was that Harper left the Ducks program so he could compete at quarterback for K-State, where he had actually committed to first before choosing Oregon.
That was a topic Harper wanted to clear up this week.
“The only reason was to come home,” said Harper, who leads the Wildcats with 50 receptions for 786 yards and three touchdowns this season. “People said it was only about me wanting to play quarterback — obviously I wanted to play quarterback — but some wanted to make it only about that and it wasn’t. The only reason I left was to come home.”
Well, that and to be part of the another K-State turnaround under coach Bill Snyder.
“It’s been pretty good, but it wasn’t the way I wanted it to go because I wanted to be in the national championship,” Harper said. “We fell short one game. But I wanted to come back and help make a turnaround and that’s what happened.”
Harper said he might not feel that way if he wasn’t in Arizona getting ready to play his former teammates in the Fiesta Bowl, though.
“If I wasn’t sitting here and we were at home already because we didn’t make it to a bowl game and didn’t have the success we had, it would have been a sour situation,” he said. “But knowing that we’re here, ranked right behind them with the same record, it shows me I made the right decision.”
Yet Harper said it was a little difficult to swallow two years ago when the Ducks were playing in the national championship game against Auburn and the Wildcats were freezing at the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.
“Seeing them play for a national championship two years after I left was kind of a bittersweet thing,” he said.
Perhaps Harper would feel the same if the Wildcats come away with a BCS bowl victory over his former team Thursday night.