EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — When Marcus Harris was beginning his high school football career as a quarterback at Kirkwood High School in St. Louis, he was given a nickname by teammate Jeremy Maclin.
“He called me ‘Superstar,’ but I didn’t like it much,” said Harris, the New York Giants’ rookie wide receiver, talking about his friend Maclin of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“So it got shortened to ‘Soup.’ That stuck.”
Harris signed as a free agent with the Giants out of Murray State last year and spent the season bouncing on and off the Giants’ practice squad. His work in training camp has impressed the Giants’ coaching staff.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound Harris caught four passes for 48 yards to lead the team in the Giants’ 17-13 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday night. He’s already become a fan favorite, as fans were chanting “Sooooooup,” at practice Wednesday night.
“I thought they were yelling, ‘Cruuuuuuz,’ but then I realized it was for me,” Harris said Thursday before the team’s final practice before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.
“It was pretty cool. Now everyone is calling me that, even some of the coaches.”
In Sunday night’s game, the 25-year-old caught a pass and took a big hit, but got up quickly and mimicked with his hands as if he had a bowl and a spoon in his hands.
“It’s just what I do,” said Harris, who was a standout receiver at Murray State, with 216 receptions and 21 touchdowns during his career that ended in 2010. He had 84 catches for 1,057 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior year.
Harris spent 2012 playing for Omaha of the United Football League and the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, the same team that once produced Super Bowl MVP QB Kurt Warner.
Harris was with the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans’ practice squads before signing and re-signing with the Giants a total of five times in 2013.
That determination caught the eye of the Giants’ staff this year.
“He’s a tough kid,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s out there on special teams and he’s making plays. He’s had some nicks, but he’s out there. He’s caught the ball well. He’s usually been in the right spot.
“The person who takes advantage of the opportunity given to him is where it starts. If you come in, be focused, work hard and stay out there day in and day out and be persistent the way this young man has done, well, that’s a good thing. He’s gotten better enough to be recognized.”
Harris knows that the Giants have had a history of keeping undrafted free agents. One in particular is fellow receiver Victor Cruz.
“It’s great to have a guy like that on the team, knowing he’s with me and supporting me,” Harris said of Cruz. “He knows what this is like and how tough it is. He’s a good friend and I’m glad he’s pulling for me.”
Harris is not afraid of any position.
“I think kickoff returns are something I really liked doing in college,” Harris said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a chance in a game. I’m down with whatever they want for me. I can play inside. I can play outside.
“I’m comfortable with everything. I have to do it all. The more I do, the better shot I have of making this team. I know I had a good game, but there are things I still have to work on. I still have to prove myself. There are a lot of receivers here and I still have to make my mark.”
However, hearing his name chanted by fans and getting noticed by a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach is not a bad start for Harris.
“Most people just dream about an opportunity like this,” Harris said. “I just have to keep doing what I have been doing.”
NOTES: First-round draft pick Odell Beckham, Jr. said that he is making progress with his strained hamstring, but he’s not ready to take the field just yet. “I’m doing a lot more and I feel a lot better,” said Beckham, the team’s top pick (No. 11 overall) out of LSU. “It’s just one of those day-by-day things. I don’t feel like I can reach my top speed, so I’m holding off and waiting. Once I get back out there, I definitely feel like I can do things. It’s kind of hard just being on the side and watching practice. I see all the fun they’re having, so it hurts not to be out there.” There is no timetable for Beckham’s return to action. … Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been impressed with rookie LB Devon Kennard, the team’s fifth-round pick out of USC. “He’s definitely exceeding my expectations,” Fewell said of Kennard. “He came in very poised and mature and you don’t find that a lot in rookies.” … Fewell also said that fourth-year LB Jacquian Williams has become an every down linebacker and not a specialty player. “His confidence combined with his ability has enabled him to become a good football player.” … The Giants have the day off on Friday.
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