All-American star and Bengals cornerback Davontae Harris traces his success to Wichita roots


Eduardo Castillo

Wichita native Davontae Harris speaks during a Black Student Union meeting Thursday. Harris was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback and Wichita native Davontae Harris spoke at a Wichita State Black Student Union meeting Thursday — addressing the hardships he had to endure from his youth through his college years.

Davontae attended Wichita South High School and went on to Illinois State University, where he earned All-American honors. Harris was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the 151st overall pick.

Shortly after signing his rookie contract, Harris announced the creation of the Wichita Kid Foundation. The foundation aids the Wichita Children’s Home.

“I wanted to change the perception,” Harris said. “I wanted to change how people saw Wichita, so I created the foundation.”

Harris grew up in a trailer park in Wichita with his mother and two older brothers.

“That was the good part of my early life,” Harris said.

Going into fourth grade, both of Harris’s older brothers were incarcerated for sexual assault. His mother, unable to cope with the situation, turned to drug use.

“My mom doesn’t really know how to take it, so she falls into drugs and starts smoking crack,” Harris said. “We’re moving all over the place — don’t know where we’re going to sleep. We’re sleeping in a van, sleeping at my grandma’s house — basically anywhere we could sleep.”

Four years later, Harris’s two older brothers were released from prison and the family moved into a studio apartment.

“My bed was in the kitchen,” Harris said. “Sometimes, I would make a joke that my alarm clock was bacon, because when you opened the fridge, it would hit my bed. At the time, that was my reality. We didn’t have much of nothing.”

Harris’s older cousin moved the young high school sophomore into his home after seeing his living situation.

“My journey started with a Wal-Mart bag and an X-box that didn’t work,” Harris said. “It was a more stable environment for me, so living with them, I started to grow more.”

Harris played football for the very first time in his sophomore year of high school. He also participated in basketball and track at South High. Despite suffering an injury in a freak accident that nearly killed him, Harris landed a spot on the Illinois State football squad after graduation.

“That was my testimony of pushing through adversity and making a way for myself,” Harris said.

During his college career, Harris progressed as an athlete — ultimately becoming an All-American.

“I go to Illinois State at a low level. I started out as a bottom feeder and I left All-American,” Harris said. “That’s my story — that’s my testimony.”

Harris said his goal with the Wichita Kid Foundation is to change the perception of what Wichita is for the people living here.

“The vision is that I want to love. Love is not just loving other people or showing love. It’s loving where you come from and loving what you represent,” Harris said.

“I always want to be an inspiration to somebody, because I know in order for me to get to where I am now, someone had to inspire me.”