Souhan: Aurora’s Harris happily lands where women are empowered and bigotry is diminished

·3 min read

Google "Tianna Harris" and, along with evidence of her rise as a soccer player and her signing with the Minnesota Aurora, you will find two other notes of interest.

She's an Instagram model.

She is dating Vikings star Justin Jefferson.

Presented with these "facts," Harris reveals a stunning reality: You can't believe everything you find on the internet.

"No, I am not an Instagram model," she said. "I think that came from the fact that I dated a guy around here who had a big media following, and they just made up that narrative."

That guy was Jefferson. "We did have a relationship for a period of time," Harris said. "He's a great person. I love him and wish him the best, but we're doing our separate things."

Harris' new thing is playing defender for the Aurora, the second-year franchise in the USL W League. Because it's a pre-professional summer league, the roster is filled with players from all walks of soccer, from high school stars to college standouts to former pros.

Their season begins Wednesday against Rochester at TCO Stadium, the outdoor venue at the Vikings' expansive training facility that serves as the Aurora's home field. Harris' background is typical of her new league, and unique.

She grew up in Ontario, became a standout soccer player in high school and decided to attend college in the United States, "because there's just a little more opportunity soccer-wise in the U.S. than there is in Canada for women right now."

She committed to Florida International, but a late coaching change led her to switch to Mississippi State. She stayed there for one season, playing little, then transferred to Kent State. Now a redshirt senior, she is a star.

She is on the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list. The trophy goes to the standout men's and women's Division I soccer players.

"I want to be the best at my position," she said. "Eventually, maybe, I'd like to play for Team Canada, to have the opportunity to play for my country and show girls who look like me that there are opportunities for women. That's big for me."

Harris said she didn't deal with much bigotry in Canada, so she wasn't prepared for what she experienced in Mississippi. "A lot of places, there really aren't diverse teams in soccer," she said. "That's fine, but some girls just don't have a lot of opportunities. I love having the opportunity to show girls that it doesn't matter what color you are, we're all one, and soccer has a way of bringing everyone together."

Which is one of the stated goals of the Aurora, a team led by women. Part of the team's mission statement reads: "We are a soccer team for community, and by community. … Aurora is an open-arms, welcoming club. We ardently oppose bigotry in all its forms."

That mentality attracted Harris, and others.

"I didn't know how much the community supported this team until I got here," Harris said. "It's just a beautiful thing to be a part of. I'm just grateful that I'm playing for a team that represents something way bigger than just soccer."

Last year, the Aurora came within one goal of winning the league championship. In the offseason, the W League expanded dramatically. The Aurora will need players of Harris' caliber to make another playoff run. Harris' experience in Minnesota could create the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that the Aurora will need.

"Canada is actually really diverse," Harris said. "Minnesota is actually pretty diverse as well. I think it was kind of a shock when I went to Mississippi State, and finding that the South is a little bit behind. I saw things that just shocked me, because I couldn't believe those kinds of things are still happening.

"You see all kinds of cultures blend together in Canada, and it's a beautiful thing, and that's what I think is happening here."