Walt Harris leaves Chicago Bears, retirement, and life after football
In his final year under contract, Harris finished with an interception, 10 pass deflections, and 51 total tackles en route to helping the team post a division-winning 13-3 record. Unfortunately, the team went on to lose in the divisional round, where Harris posted a pass deflection and four tackles. However, despite a strong first six years to start his career, the Chicago Bears elected not to bring back Harris, who instead signed a deal as an unrestricted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts.
Harris spent only two seasons with the Colts, but returned to the playoffs both seasons in the AFC. In 30 starts with the team, Harris totalled two interceptions and an impressive 29 total pass breakups. He was even a starter during the team's 2003 postseason run, where they made it all the way to the AFC Championship game before losing to Tom Brady's Patriots team. After just two seasons in Indy, Harris chose to sign a new two-year deal with the then-Washington Redskins.
In Washington, Harris spent his first season primarily as a backup, but was able to start in two games for the team en route to finishing the year with two interceptiosn and five pass deflections. The following season, Harris earned a starting spot, but was only able to play in 13 games due to a late season injury. After two seasons in the nation's capital, Harris signed with the San Francisco 49ers, the final stop of his NFL career.
In his first season in the Bay, Harris enjoyed a career resurgence and finished with eight total interceptions, the third-highest mark across the league that year. For his dominance as a ballhawk, Harris was selected to the first and only Pro Bowl of his career, a unique accomplishment for an 11-year NFL veteran.
Over the next two seasons, Harris remained a dependable fixture in the team's secondary and logged seven interceptions and 112 total tackles in 31 starts. Following the season, the veteran cornerback retired from the NFL after a 13-year NFL career that saw nearly half of that time spent with the Chicago Bears.
In the Windy City, Harris recorded 15 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns, nine forced fumbles, and 413 total touchdowns. He also started 84 games of the 87 that he was available for, and performed extremely well across two different regimes in Chicago. In team history, Harris's interception total is 33rd best all time, tied alongside legendary safety Doug Plank.
Following his retirement from the NFL, Harris was recognized by a number of outlets and organizations for his time on the football field. At his alma mater, the cornerback was inducted into the school's Athletics Hall of Fame and was also added to the Ring of Honor. His name was added to the Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State's home field, joining a select group of Bulldogs legends including former Bears' linebacker Joe Fortunato.
Away from the game of football, Harris has spent several years working with non-profit organizations and continues to do so today. Just before retirement, he founded Walts World Inc., a group that aims to assist and educate at-risk children in the community. More recently, he also founded Official Pro Players Inc., another non-profit that aims to bring together professional athletes, ultimately to help benefit the community.