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Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - Gridiron Grizzly among 10 finalists in NFL contest
Oakland University graduate student and club football player Christopher Harris is one of 10 finalists in the Together We Make Football contest.
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant


This Thursday, Oakland University student Christopher Harris will be among a select group of fans featured in a National Football League commercial to air during the NFL’s annual Thanksgiving Day games.

Harris, a graduate student and member of the university’s newly formed football club, was contacted by NFL Films after being named one of 10 finalists in the “Together We Make Football” contest, an interactive campaign that invited fans to share inspiring stories about why they love the sport.

Selected from thousands of entries, the finalists appeared in short videos chronicling the impact of football on their lives. Harris’ spot focuses on his battle with mental illness and the role that athletics played in helping him overcome his struggles. Along with sharing his personal story, he also took the opportunity to spotlight Oakland’s vibrant campus community and long-awaited club football team.

“I mentioned our new club team and how it is the first full-contact football team in our beloved university’s 57-year history,” said Harris, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling. “I also spoke about the beauty of the campus and the people who work and live here … how it was instrumental in my recovery.”

Earlier this month, an NFL Films crew visited Oakland’s campus to interview Harris and also traveled to Ohio to capture footage of the football team’s season finale. A variety of clips from the 10 finalists will be showcased in the Thanksgiving Day commercial. The short films will be unveiled during the Thanksgiving weekend and continue to air during games throughout the month of December. The films will also be posted online, where fans can vote for the top five storytellers.

In addition, an NFL Films documentary about the five winners is planned and the group will be honored in New York and New Jersey as part of Super Bowl XLVIII. Aside from his hopes to win the contest, Harris says that just being named a finalist has helped him fulfill his ultimate goal of inspiring others.

“The biggest reason I got involved was to raise awareness and be an advocate for people with mental health issues,” he said. “Sharing my story lets people know that once you get through the struggle, there’s hope for a brighter future.”

Starting on Thanksgiving Day, fans can vote for Harris’ story at TogetherWeMakeFootball.com. Voting will remain open through Monday, Dec. 23, and the five overall winners will be announced during the NFL playoffs.

Oakland University is a vibrant academic community with more than 20,000 students and more than 260 degree and certificate programs. To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at oakland.edu/newsatou and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.