It was typical day during organized-team activities in June 2016, and Vikings guard Mike Harris was battling to keep his starting job. Following a practice, he returned to his home in Eden Prairie to study his iPad.
Suddenly, everything changed for Harris.
“I felt like I was having a stroke,’’ Harris said Tuesday. “I got home and I just remember being on my iPad and my vision went blurry, went double. I couldn’t see.’’
A friend rushed Harris to Winter Park, and he was looked at by Vikings medical personnel with the initial thought it was a concussion. But that wasn’t it.
After tests were conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, it was determined Harris had a congenital condition known as brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM). The Mayo Clinic website describes it as “a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain.’’
It wasn’t initially thought to be career ending. When Harris arrived for training camp in July 2016, he was put on the non-football illness list, and had hope of returning that season.
That didn’t happen, and Harris ended up being waived by the Vikings last February. He had hoped to hook on with another team, but those thoughts ended during the summer when Harris returned to the Mayo Clinic and it was determined it would not be wise to play again.
Harris said he will file retirement papers with the NFL next month. His career is over after five seasons, the last three with Minnesota. He started all 16 games for the Vikings during their NFC North title season of 2015.
The good news for Harris is he is expected to lead a normal life. He will have a procedure at the Mayo Clinic in about a month, and he said doctors have told him there is only 5 perfect chance of having a recurrence of AVM.
“For a long time, I really depressed about the whole situation but I finally am in the light,’’ Harris said. “At the end of the day, I want to live to be a grown man. Football gave me a good life. I had been playing since I was 10 years old.
“When it first happened, I didn’t want to talk to the media and any of my teammates, but I’m in a better place now. It took a while but I know my life comes over football.’’
After Harris was put on the NFI list in July 2016 and through the remainder of his tenure with the team, the Vikings declined to discuss his medical situation. They were under no obligation to pay Harris for the 2016 season, but he said they agreed to give him $400,000 of his $1.9 million base salary. He already had earned a $100,000 workout bonus for the spring, so that gave him a total of $500,000.
“They didn’t have to (pay him), but my agent and me, we very much appreciate it,’’ said said Harris, who made about $3.5 million his NFL career. “I’ve done well with my money. There are no hard feelings. I still love this organization. I went to each home game this year so far.’’
Harris, 28, is a California native, but he has elected to remain in Minnesota, where he has been since the Vikings claimed in on waivers in 2014 following two seasons with San Diego.
Harris, who graduated from UCLA with a history degree in 2012, is seeking now to determine what will be his next career. He is considering going into coaching or fitness training or perhaps doing film or media work.
“It’s unfortunate my career has come to an end, but I’m just happy I can walk on my own two feet and I can be there for my family in my future,’’ Harris said.
Prior to June 2016, Harris said he had no problems related to AVM. He was seeking then during spring drills to show he should retain his starting job at right guard even though the Vikings had signed free agent Alex Boone to play left guard and were looking to move Brandon Fusco from left guard to his old position on the right.
“It was totally non-football related,’’ Harris said. “It was like a malformation. They did a CT scan and they found it.’’