We continue the 12 Days Countdown to Kickoff with #9 Major Harris.
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Record: 25-10-1, Bowl Record: 0-3
Major Harris is easily the most recognizable icon of West Virginia University football. Harris came to West Virginia in the late 1980s. Harris, starting quarterback at Brashear High, was originally interested in the University of Pittsburgh. Coach Mike Gottfried recruited Harris as a defensive back. Harris, firm in his commitment to being a college quarterback, decided to commit to Coach Don Nehlen. The 1980s really saw the dawn of “athletic quarterbacks.” Major Harris was a prime example of a quarterback that was just as talented rushing the ball as he was passing the ball. Harris would show the nation, and Pitt especially, that he was one of the best athletes in the nation. In 1988, Harris would pass for 1,915 yards, rush for 610 yards, and score 20 total touchdowns in leading WVU to an undefeated regular season. Harris led WVU to the Fiesta Bowl, in what was dubbed the National Championship game. Harris would follow up his phenomenal sophomore season with an even better junior season. He would amass 2,058 passing yards, 936 rushing yards, and 23 total touchdowns. Harris would finish his Mountaineer career with more than 2,000 yards rushing, finishing in the top ten of WVU’s all-time rushers. Rather than complete his senior season in Morgantown, Harris opted for the NFL draft. Coming out of school early would prove to be a terrible mistake as Harris would never play a snap in the NFL, spending his professional career primarily in arena leagues. While Harris’ pro career is forgettable at best, his collegiate career is one of the best in the history of college football. That is why, in 2009, Major Harris was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Memorable Game: When you think of Major Harris as West Virginia icon, you inevitably think to the Dale Sparks shot (featured above) of Harris scampering into the end zone against Penn State in 1988. The game against the Nittany Lions was always circled by Mountaineer teams, primarily because they knew that the Penn State game would be difficult and usually end in defeat. Coming into the contest in 1988, Penn State had won 27 of the previous 29 (including one tie) against the Mountaineers. Major Harris, having watched Penn State edge WVU the year prior, was out to prove to the nation that his Mountaineers were not going to let Joe Pa get the best of them again. The Mountaineers, led by Harris, jumped all over Penn State in the first half, building a 31-8 lead. Harris dismantled Penn State with his legs and his arm. He ran for 58 yards and a touchdown while also throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. West Virginia would hold off a late Penn State rally to preserve a 51-30 win. The win is often regarded as one of, if not the, biggest win in the program’s history. The game put Coach Nehlen and the Mountaineers in the national spot light, setting WVU up for National Championship consideration in 1988.
Competition: Major Harris was an easy pick for #9. He is synonymous with #9 in Mountaineer Nation. Besides, there was zero chance that this selection would go to a disgrace like Pacman Jones. Don’t get me wrong, he is a fine football talent, but his off the field issues cast an ugly shadow on the West Virginia program.
Teaser: Tomorrow we honor an under-sized shifty playmaker. This player was an incredible talent, able to receive, rush, and kick return. His ability to change direction on a dime left opposing defenders with broken ankles and grasping at thin air. This Mountaineer star moved like a water bug across the field.