One of the quieter University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players to pass through the program in recent years, defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris, will be among the school's former and current athletes graduating this morning at McKenzie Arena.
UTC lists 17 athletes (including walk-ons) among the December graduates, including some high-profile achievers such as football players B.J. Coleman and Joel Bradford, golfer Emma de Groot and runner Emmanuel Kirwa.
Athletic director Rick Hart described Lewis-Harris as a "quiet guy, but he's got a great smile." Lewis-Harris was a four-year starter in the Mocs' secondary and finished his career with 184 career tackles and five interceptions.
"But even then he's not ostentatious," Hart said of Lewis-Harris' playmaking abilities. "He doesn't draw attention to himself."
The Mocs had one of the best defenses in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision this season, and Lewis-Harris was part of the reason why. His ability to play cornerback or safety gave the defense some depth and flexibility.
A business and entrepreneurship major, Lewis-Harris said he hopes to one day make a big splash in the business world.
"Five or 10 years down the road, hopefully I'll have my own business," he said. "I have some business ideas in mind, and I just have to get my foot in the door."
Lewis-Harris, from Smyrna, Ga., said he already had "the entrepreneurial mindset" coming out of Campbell High School.
"I knew I wanted to do something in business," he said. "That's why in high school I took a couple of business-related courses because it would be getting me on the right track for that. Then I got here and got into the business school here with my marketing and entrepreneurship degree."
Kirwa, whose family has made the trip from Kenya to see him graduate, won three straight Southern Conference cross country titles and was the league's men's runner of the year three times.
As for de Groot, an Australian, her family had to come from even farther away to see last year's SoCon individual champion and women's golfer of the year.
UTC football coach Russ Huesman said he likes having his seniors graduate in December.
"They see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "You know they're going to do what they've got to do to graduate, so they're pretty focused. I just think it's a great deal."
The football quartet of Lewis-Harris, Coleman, Bradford and Sloan Allison all had a big impact on the Mocs' turnaround the past three seasons. Huesman said he was happy to be around them every day.
"There's four good players there -- four good players and great kids," he said. "You can't draw them up any better than that."