(Editor’s note: Welcome to “Favorites” week at Crystal Ball Run. For the next few days, CBR writers will weigh in with some of the things – a person, a place, a game – that makes college football the best sport ever invented. First up, Tom Perry discusses the guy who made the Mountaineers so much fun during his undergrad days at West Virginia.)
Jammed into the student section with 10,000 or 12,000 other yelling and screaming West Virginia fans, I was a mere 18-year-old freshman attending just my sixth game at Mountaineer Field.
It was a dream season. WVU was 7-0 when rival Penn State came to Morgantown.
What happened next remains legendary in the hills of West Virginia as the Mountaineers rolled to a 51-30 victory over the Nittany Lions.
Personally, one play in that game has stuck with me forever.
Sophomore quarterback Major Harris forgot the play and didn’t want to waste a time out so he guessed. He was wrong.
While he turned right the rest of his offense went left. Harris was facing a bunch of Penn State defenders. But Harris darted and sidestepped seven Penn State players on his way to one of the most exciting 26-yard touchdown runs ever.
At that moment I realized I was watching something special. While history has not been particularly kind to Harris, he still remains my favorite player of all time.
Harris was one of the first real dual-threat quarterbacks before it was vogue to have that label. His running and throwing ability frustrated defenses. They would think they had him sacked; and Harris was gone for a first-down run.
Harris didn’t get the same respect from college fans or the media as say Michael Vick, Cam Newton or Vince Young.
But he took West Virginia to the national title game in 1988 and he was a Heisman finalist. I still hate Andre Ware for winning it. Harris was the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards and pass for more than 5,000 yards in a career as a three-year starter for the Mountaineers.
He made a huge mistake and left school after his junior season, but the NFL wasn’t ready for his type of player. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Raiders, but never played in the NFL. I always wished he had stuck around for his senior season, because the standing ovation he would have received from the WVU fans would have been epic on Senior Day.
Soon after the NFL snub, I sat down with Harris in his trailer home near the WVU hospital. He promised me that day he’d show everyone they were wrong.
Unfortunately, it never came to fruition.
Yet it doesn’t alter my feelings about Harris. He gave every Mountaineer fan a terrific three-year run that is better than anything Pat White, Geno Smith or Rich Rodriguez ever gave any of us.
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