Andrew Harris, a 22-year-old Kalispell native and fourth-year student at the University of Montana, was found dead on Jan. 22 in Missoula after an apparent suicide.
Harris played football for the Griz and would have suited up for his final season this fall. He is the son of Greg Harris, a UM grad and former NFL defensive lineman for the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. Josh Harris, Andrew’s older brother, also played at UM from 2008-12.
Harris graduated from Glacier in 2015 and was a senior on the Wolfpack team that won the 2014 Class AA state championship, earning all-state accolades that year. He saw his first significant action as a collegian last fall, playing in eight games along the defensive line.
“In football, Andrew was that high-motor guy, I don’t know that we’ve ever had a kid with a motor like Andrew,” Glacier football coach Grady Bennett said. “On that state championship team he brought those qualities … The guys knew that we was going to flat sell out. He never took a play off. Not ever.”
“Off the field, he was such a happy-go-lucky goofball,” Bennett continued. “He just had that really fun personality.”
Bennett, a Kalispell native who was a star quarterback at the University of Montana and has spent most of his adult life as a coach and teacher, said he has shared a message of love and compassion with his students in the days since Harris’ passing.
“I spent a lot of time in my classes talking about it, just letting the kids that that they are each valuable, that they matter, they are important, they are loved, they are cared for,” he said.
Speaking to suicides impacting football players, but not Harris specifically, Bennett said he is acutely aware that the sport’s sometimes hyper-masculine culture can make it more difficult to ask for help.
“It’s OK to not be OK,” Bennett said. “There’s that stigma that we’ve got to be tough, there’s that stigma with people sometimes that ‘I can’t admit that I’m not OK.’ I just want kids to know that it’s OK to not be OK and admit that, and know that there are people that care deeply and would be happy to help you.”
The University of Montana released a statement on Jan. 23 that included the following from Director of Athletics Kent Haslam: “All of us in Grizzly Athletics were saddened to hear of Andrew’s passing. On behalf of our department and the more than 300 student-athletes here at UM, we send our deepest condolences and heartfelt thoughts to the Harris family, and all those who knew and loved Andrew.”
In the same statement, head football coach Bobby Hauck added, “Any time we lose a member of the Grizzly brotherhood it’s a sad day. The Grizzly family will continue to mourn the passing of Andrew Harris, but right now our primary concern is for his immediate family, their well-being and their privacy.”
A moment of silence was observed in Harris’ memory before a Jan. 24 men’s basketball game in Missoula.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week by calling (800) 273-8255.