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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Sooner football fans will instantly recognize the name Tommie Harris.

While you probably remember his dominating presence on the football field, you might not know his story of triumph and resilience after leaving college.

“I married her the night we played the Oakland Raiders,” said Tommie Harris, talking about his marriage to his wife Ashley in 2012.

The All-American from OU and All-Pro for the Chicago Bears was on top of the world with the woman of his dreams.  

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Tommie and Ashley Harris

And then his world crashed.  

Just 41 days after they were married, tragedy struck.

During a routine surgery in Oklahoma City, Ashley died suddenly from a brain aneurysm.

Harris received the horrible news in an airport. 

“I got a call that said, ‘Tommie, your wife stopped breathing on the table. You need to rush here and get here now,’“ he said.

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Tommie recalling tragic loss.

Harris remembers the crushing emotions that hit him during that moment. 

“I felt deflated, helpless,” he said.

What followed were years of soul searching, heartache and learning for Tommie Harris.

Through all of the gloom, he couldn’t see it at the time, but he now believes there was divine guidance in those dark valleys he walked.

“While I was in it, I didn’t think it was divine,” says Tommie. “But when I look back over the seven years, eight years, going through grief, going through just a huge transition. I started to see that God has been there the whole time.  It’s just being able to settle all the noise down to see the small victories inside of something so tragic.” 

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“Endure…Playing Through Life’s Hardest Hits”

Tommie has written a book about his experience.  It’s called “Endure…Playing Through Life’s Hardest Hits.”

He hopes those who read it will take what he’s learned and it will help them through their own troubled times.

“So the key is just to build up endurance. To never quit. or hope to never quit,” Tommie said. “My main thing is to tell them hope is on the other side of enduring.”

Tommie Harris has found a new purpose in life since retiring from football; sharing his message of enduring to all who will listen.

Whether it’s a church group or those who watch his music videos, a new endeavor he has started with a Nashville producer, Tommie says he has learned a valuable lesson through life’s hard knocks.

“There’s always a message in everything we call a mess.”