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Major Harris

A photo of Major Harris.

Major Harris
Career information
Position(s): QB
College: West Virginia
AFL Entry: 1991
CFL Draft: 1990 / Round:
NFL Draft: 1990 / Round: 12 / Pick: 317
 As player:
*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
  • 1988 ECAC Player of the Year
  • 1989 ECAC Player of the Year
  • 1989 Heisman Trophy third-place
  • 1988 Heisman Trophy fifth-place
College Football Hall of Fame

Major Harris was a quarterback for West Virginia from 1987-1989. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 1989 NFL Draft as the 12th pick in the 12th round (overall: 317th pick). arris was a 1989 All American and finished third and fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1988 and 1989, respectively. He was also the ECAC Player of the Year in 1988 and 1989. He is now an assistant wide receiver coach for North Hills High School in Pittsburgh.

Harris was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.[1]

Early life[]

Major started his career as a senior in Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (he would later be called the Brashear Bullet by West Virginia announcer Jack Fleming).[2] One of Major's most memorable plays was when he threw a game winning 79 yard touchdown pass to Tony Horne on the last play of the game against Indiana High School. Major was named Pittsburgh's high school football player of the year and a Sporting News Top 100 prospect.

College career[]

Freshman (1987)[]

Major was interested in attending the University of Pittsburgh, but the coach, Mike Gottfried, was only interested with him at defensive back. Harris took another offer at West Virginia, where coach Don Nehlen was trying to rebuild the quarterback position. Nehlen set up a football camp for two-hand touch football and stated, "The kids couldn't touch him."

Nehlen signed Florida prep quarterback Browning Nagle along with Harris and redshirted them for the season. Harris and Nagle battled it out in spring practice and Harris eventually won the job, so Nagle transferred to University of Louisville.

Harris struggled at first, but when the fifth game came around at East Carolina University Harris stood out and ended West Virginia's season with a bid to the Sun Bowl against Oklahoma State University. West Virginia lost, but Harris rushed for over 100 yards.[3] That season, Harris threw for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs on only 77 completions. Harris also rushed for 615 yards and 6 TDs.[4]

Sophomore (1988)[]

The following season, he was nearly perfect in directing West Virginia to the school’s first-ever undefeated, untied regular season and a matchup against No. 1-ranked Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship. In getting the Mountaineers to the Fiesta Bowl, Harris baffled opponents all season with his daring, unpredictable, wide-open style. Against Boston College, Harris recorded a career-high 297 passing yards. Harris' dazzling play was never more evident than in West Virginia’s 51-30 dismantling of long-time nemesis Penn State. Harris outgained the entire Penn State team, 301-292, and produced the school’s most exciting run ever in the first quarter of that game.[5] That run and several more like it helped him finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy race that year and earn ECAC player of the year honors.[6] His season passing totals were 1,915 yards and 14 TDs, while he rushed for 610 yards and 6 TDs. He had the highest passing-efficiency rating of any college quarterback during the season, and totaled 2,348 total yards of offense and averaging 8.4 yards per touch. As the Mountaineers traveled to their first ever National Championship game, the Irish were favored. But on the third play of the game, Major Harris was hit and separated his shoulder. Harris stayed in the game, but didn't throw the ball that much, scrambling instead. At halftime, Harris fixed his shoulder, but he still could not throw deep. West Virginia never threatened Notre Dame's lead, and the Fighting Irish won 34-21.[6]

"The Play"[]

Against Penn State in 1988, as the play clock wound down, Harris forgot the play he had called in the huddle. As soon as the ball was snapped, the entire West Virginia team went in one direction and Harris went the other. He faked out the entire Penn State team leaving no less than seven tacklers grabbing air on the way to a thrilling touchdown—and one of the more memorable plays in WVU history. The Mountaineers won the game 51-30.

Harris' coach, Don Nehlen, said of the run, "I had called 37 and he ran 36. Everybody else on our offense went one way, and Major went the other. He literally ran through the Penn State defense for a touchdown of about 30 yards. After he scored, Major came to the sideline and apologized. He said, "My fault, Coach." People still ask me about that play all of the time...If there was a contest for most exciting player, Major would win it hands down."

Junior (1989)[]

As a junior in 1989, Harris was equally spectacular despite not having as strong a supporting cast. Against Rutgers during the season, Harris had a career-high 163 rushing yards. He finished third in the 1989 Heisman Trophy balloting on the season, earned first team Kodak All America honors and was a second team AP and Football News All American. Like 1988, Harris was again voted ECAC player of the year. That year, Harris led the Mountaineers to a Gator Bowl game, but they lost to Clemson 27-7.[5] Harris threw for 2,058 yards and 17 TDs on the season, along with 936 and 6 TDs rushing. Harris set school records that season for most total offense and quarterback rushing yards. Both records, however, have since been broken.[7]


Harris, alongside more recent Mountaineer Pat White, are widely considered the greatest quarterbacks ever to play at West Virginia. Harris established a WVU record with 7,334 total yards and became the first of just a handful of quarterbacks in Division I history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 2,000 yards in a career. His 2,161 rushing yards rank eighth on the school all-time rushing list.[3] Harris' longest pass of his career was 70 yards and his longest run was 75 yards.[4]

Harris was announced to the 2009 College Football Hall of Fame induction class.[1]

Professional career[]

NFL and CFL[]

After the completion of his junior year, Harris was convinced to leave school early and was drafted in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 NFL Draft, though he would never play a down in the National Football League. Instead, Harris played one injury-filled season in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions.

Arena Football League and PSFL[]

Then Harris spent parts of the next three years in the Arena Football League, where his 429 rushing yards in 1991 stood as a single-season league record until Michael Bishop ran for 459 yards in 2005. That same season, his debut, Harris passed for 940 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. The next season, 1992, Harris passed for 837 yards and 12 interceptions, then finished his AFL career with 382 yards and 8 touchdowns in 1993. Harris finished his three-year AFL career with 2,159 yards and 29 touchdowns passing and 837 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing.

National Minor Football League (NMFL)[]

Harris also played for the West Virginia Lightning and the Hunrington Hawks in the NMFL from 1994-1996. The West Virginia Lightning won the NMFL Championship under Harris' command. The NMFL consisted of teams in the eastern United States from Texas to Maine. Top performers from the NMFL moved on to The World League, later known as NFL Europe.

Harris was also the quarterback of the short lived Washington Marauders of the Professional Spring Football League in 1992.


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Hall Calls. (2009-04-30). Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  2. Major Harris Video Career at WVU. Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  3. 3.0 3.1 WVU :: Athletics
  4. 4.0 4.1 West Virginia Mountaineer Basketball | Cash Advance | Debt Consolidation at Retrieved on 2012-05-22.
  5. 5.0 5.1 WVU Varsity Club
  6. 6.0 6.1 WVU Varsity Club
  7. West Virginia Mountaineer Basketball | Cash Advance | Debt Consolidation at Retrieved on 2012-05-22.

External Links[]