Cliff Harris

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Cliff Harris

10 Seasons
141 Games
6 Pro Bowls
29 Career Interceptions
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10

Seasons

141

Games

6

Pro Bowls

29

Career Interceptions
View full stats

"I do hit hard, but I do it legally. As a pass defender, I am allowed to hit the receiver one time before the ball is thrown. However, once he catches the ball or becomes a blocker he can be hit until tackled or knocked out of bounds."

Read Cliff Harris' Bio

(Ouachita Baptist)...6'0'', 188...Signed as free agent, 1970 … Noted for hard-hitting style of play … Defensive leader of Cowboys team that advanced to postseason in every season but one during his career … Helped Cowboys capture seven division titles … Played in 21 playoff games including seven NFC championship games and five Super Bowls … Career stats: 29 interceptions for 281 yards, 1 TD … 66 punt returns for 418 yards and 63 kickoff returns for 1,622 yards … Selected First-Team All-Pro four straight seasons, 1975-78 … All-NFC five times (1974, 1976-79) … Voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls … Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team of 1970s … Born November 12, 1948 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

BIO

Cliff Harris Dallas Cowboys

"I do hit hard, but I do it legally. As a pass defender, I am allowed to hit the receiver one time before the ball is thrown. However, once he catches the ball or becomes a blocker he can be hit until tackled or knocked out of bounds."

In 1970, the Dallas Cowboys, like every other team in the National Football League, opted not to select safety Cliff Harris during any of the 17 rounds of the annual player draft.  Even though the Cowboys were clearly interested in improving their secondary – they drafted safety Charlie Waters and cornerback Mark Washington and traded for future Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley – Harris went undrafted. 

However, after watching films of tiny Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the Cowboys scouting department and coaching staff agreed he was worth a free agent tryout. Harris signed with the Cowboys as a free agent.

Harris earned a starter’s berth as a free safety, but his rookie season was interrupted by obligatory military service.   He returned the following year in time for training camp and regained his starter’s role.  It was a role he would not relinquish during his 10-year career. 

A model of consistency throughout his career, Harris earned the nickname “Captain Crash” for his hard-hitting technique.  “A rolling ball of butcher knives,” was how Hall of Fame Coach George Allen described the Cowboys’ free safety. 

Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson also offered high praise for Harris.  “I feel Harris is the finest free safety in the business today,” Wilson said in 1979.  “He’s changed the way the position is being played.  You see other teams modeling their free safeties around the way Harris plays, strong as can be against the run, able to go back and cover against the pass and striking fear in everyone on the field because he hits so hard.” 

In addition to 29 career interceptions, “Captain Crash” also accounted for 16 opponents’ fumble recoveries. During the first half of his career he was also utilized by the Cowboys as a punt and kickoff return specialist. 

Harris was also an astute student of the game.  His vision and leadership on the field earned him the respect of teammates and opponents alike.  “Their front four, even though it was a great front four, really wasn’t a concern,” commented Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who faced the Cowboys in Super Bowls X and XIII.  “We blocked them pretty well.  But their secondary was just great.  Safeties Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris were super.”

Six times during his 10-season career Harris was recognized by his peers and the league’s coaches by being invited to play in the Pro Bowl.  He was also named first- or second-team All-Pro or All-NFC and six times.

STATS

Cliff Harris's Stats

 

 

 

 

 

Interceptions

 

Punt returns

Kickoff returns

Year

Team

G

No.

Yds.

Avg.

TD

No.

Yds.

Avg.

TD

No.

Yds.

Avg.

TD

1970

Dallas

11

2

66

33.0

0

 

 

 

 

1

22

22.0

0

1971

Dallas

14

2

0

0.0

0

17

129

7.6

0

29

823

28.4

0

1972

Dallas

14

3

40

13.3

0

19

78

4.1

0

26

615

23.7

0

1973

Dallas

14

2

9

4.5

0

3

20

6.7

0

6

148

24.7

0

1974

Dallas

14

3

8

2.7

0

26

193

7.4

0

1

14

14.0

0

1975

Dallas

14

3

58

19.3

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1976

Dallas

14

3

32

10.7

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1977

Dallas

14

5

7

1.4

0

1

-2

-2.0

0

 

 

 

 

1978

Dallas

16

4

26

6.5

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1979

Dallas

16

2

35

17.5

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Career Total

141

29

281

9.7

1

66

418

6.3

0

63

1622

25.7

0

 



CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

Cliff Harris's Championship Games

Championship Games

1970 NFC – Dallas Cowboys 17, San Francisco 49ers 10

Harris did not start but played in the game.


1971 NFC Dallas Cowboys 14, San Francisco 49ers 3

Harris started at right safety.  He had one tackle, two assists, one pass defensed, one pass interception for 2 yards, one kickoff return for 19 yards, one punt return for 1 yard, and one fair catch on a punt.


1972 NFC – Washington Redskins 26, Dallas Cowboys 3

Harris started at right safety.  He had three tackles, two assists, two kickoff returns for 29 yards, one fair catch on a punt, one fumble recovery, and one pass defensed.


1973 NFC – Minnesota Vikings 27, Dallas Cowboys 10

Harris started at right safety.  He had six tackles, three assists, one fumble recovery, and two kickoff returns for 54 yards.


1975 NFC Dallas Cowboys 37, Los Angeles Rams 7

Harris started at right safety.  He had seven tackles and one interception for 22 yards, and one punt return for 9 yards.


1977 NFC Dallas Cowboys 23, Minnesota Vikings 6

Harris started at free safety.  He had two tackles and five assists.


1978 NFC Dallas Cowboys 28, Los Angeles Rams 0

Harris started at free safety.  He had three tackles, two assists, one pass defensed, and one interception for 5 yards.

 

Super Bowls


Super Bowl V – Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13

Harris did not start but played in the game.  He had one tackle and one fumble recovered.


Super Bowl VIDallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3

Harris started at right safety.  He had eight tackles, two assists, one pass defensed, and two fair catches on a punt.


Super Bowl X – Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

Harris started at right safety.  He had five tackles, 11 assists, and three passes defensed.


Super Bowl XIIDallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10

Harris started at free safety.  He had two tackles, one assist, and one pass defensed.


Super Bowl XIIIPittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

Harris started at free safety.  He had three tackles, three assists, one pass defensed.

 



CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Cliff Harris's Career Highlights

All-League Teams           

All-Pro:  1975 (NEA)  ·  1976 (AP, PFWA, NEA, PW)  ·  1977 (AP, PFWA, NEA, PW)  ·  1978 (AP, PFWA, PW)


All-Pro Second Team: 1974 (NEA)  ·  1975 (PFWA)  ·  1978 (NEA)


All-NFC: 1974 (UPI, SN, PW)  ·  1976 (AP, UPI, SN, PW)  ·  1977 (UPI, SN, PW)  ·  1978 (UPI, SN, PW)  ·  1979 (SN)


All-NFC Second Team: 1975 (UPI)  ·  1979 (UPI)

           

Pro Bowls

(6) – 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980

 

In the NFL Record Book (at time of his retirement following 1979 season)

 

Super Bowl Records

·       [Tied for 1st] Most Games – 5 (V, VI, X, XII, XIII)


Post-season Records

·       [Tied for 1st] Most Opponents Fumbles Recovered, Career – 4

·       [Tied for 3rd] Most Games, Career – 21


Team Records

Cowboys records held by Harris at the time of his retirement following the 1979 season

·       [Tied for 1st] Most Fair Catches, Game – 4 (vs. San Francisco, Dec. 23, 1972)

·       [2nd] Highest Average Kickoff Return, Career – 25.7

·       [2nd] Most Fair Catches, Season – 16 (1972)

·       [2nd] Highest Average Kickoff Return, Season – 28.4 (1971)

·       [Tied for 2nd] Most Kickoff Return Yardage, Season – 823 (1971)

 

League/Team Statistical Titles

 

Team Statistical Championships

Interception Leader: 1974, 1977, 1979*

Kickoff Return Leader: 1971, 1972

Punt Return Leader: 1971, 1972

* Co-leader

 

Awards and Honors

·    1970s All-Decade Team

 

Year-by-Year Team Records

1970     Dallas Cowboys............... 10-4-0   (1st)

1971     Dallas Cowboys............... 11-3-0   (1st)

1972     Dallas Cowboys............... 10-4-0   (2nd)

1973     Dallas Cowboys............... 10-4-0   (1st)

1974     Dallas Cowboys.................. 8-6-0   (3rd)

1975     Dallas Cowboys............... 10-4-0   (2nd)

1976     Dallas Cowboys............... 11-3-0   (1st)

1977     Dallas Cowboys............... 12-2-0   (1st)  

1978     Dallas Cowboys............... 12-4-0   (1st)

1979     Dallas Cowboys............... 11-5-0   (1st)

(Division Finish in Parentheses)

Qualified for Postseason in Bold

CAREER CAPSULE

Cliff Harris's Career Capsule

Full Name: Clifford Allen Harris

Birthdate: November 12, 1948

Birthplace: Fayetteville, Arkansas

High School: Fayetteville (AR)

Pro Career: 10 seasons, 141 games

Acquired: Signed as a free agent by Dallas, 1970



ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH

Cliff Harris Enshrinement Speech

CLIFF HARRIS:  Yeah.  Yeah, Drew.  Thank you, Drew.  Hey, wow, what an incredible journey this has been for me, and what an honor it is to be here with all these legendary players and coaches and so many special friends. 

There are so many people in my life that I need to thank.  First, my beautiful wife Karen, who's here tonight, who made my life complete. 

(Cheers.)

I only wish she could have been joined by my wonderful, dedicated parents who supported me so many years when others counted me out.  My dad taught me mental toughness, and my mother instilled me with passion. 

I've also been blessed with many great coaches.  I'd like to thank Coach Gene Stallings who had the patience, which I tested many times, to bring out the best in me.  And then of course Tom Landry, who created the great flex defense that fit my style of play perfectly. 

And I'd like to thank, more importantly, Gil Brandt, very importantly, Gil Brandt, who had to search long and hard to find me hidden into the Ouachita Hills.  Thank you, Gil. 

I'd also like to ‑‑ had the great fortune to play with many legendary players, players who taught me the ins and outs of pro football and how to survive.  Players like Lee Roy Jordan, Mel Renfro, Cornell Green and Bob Lilly and of course my longtime friend and fellow safety, Charlie Waters.  Charlie Waters.  Without him I wouldn't be here today.  Thank you, Charlie. 

(Applause.)

Our different styles complicated each other perfectly.  We were the Doomsday Defense. 

(Cheers.)

The odds of me playing football in the NFL were much less here standing ‑‑ were much less than standing here before you tonight, were incredibly long.  Football was my passion, but my fallback was to become a doctor. 

I grew up in the mountains of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  My junior year I was in high school, I was a second-string junior varsity quarterback.  Most of the coaches and players doubted I would play past the ninth grade, much less make it to the Hall of Fame. 

Then fortunately my senior year I moved to the small town of Des Arc, Arkansas.  It was the best move of my life.  There I quarterbacked an undefeated team, and my football life was about to change. 

I received one scholarship offer from the mighty Ouachita Baptist Tigers. 

(Cheers.)

Where my dad played football.  I had four great years there and made many lifelong friends, many of who are here today. 

(Cheers.)

Our coach, Buddy Bob Benson, taught us toughness and the fine line between winning and losing.  He also taught me if I could make it through his practices, I could make it through anything.  I think my Ouachita guys will attest to that, right guys?

In the spring of my senior year, a signed a free‑agent contract for the Dallas Cowboys.  That summer I went to training camp in Thousand Oaks, California.  There I was greeted by 120 other rookies who were all trying to make the team. 

Fortunately for me it was a strike year, so the coaches had more time to watch the rookies in game conditions.  Most of the rookies had been cut by the time the veterans showed up. We played a couple of preseason games on the coast and then headed back to Dallas for preseason. 

I was one of the very few rookies that made that trip, once again defying the odds.  Then after we finished preseason, the first team meeting, preparing for the first regular season game, Coach Landry announced the starting lineup. 

It was one of the most exciting times in my life.  I not only found out that I'd accomplished my goal of making the team, Coach Landry announced to me that I was a starting free safety for the Dallas Cowboys. 

(Cheers and applause.)

The only rookie starter.  It was an incredible feeling.  This was a Cowboy team that had repeatedly made it to the playoffs but never won a championship.  They were determined to make it to the Super Bowl. 

And I'll never forget my first home game.  It was in the old Cotton Bowl.  I lined up directly across from the great Cowboy and Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, who's here tonight. 

(Cheers.)

Before Lee Roy Jordan called the defensive play, Bob looked over at me and said, "We're going to the Super Bowl, rookie, and I don't want you to do anything to mess it up."

(Laughter.)

I just nodded and said, "Yes, sir, Mr. Lilly."  And sure enough, we did go to the Super Bowl, but we didn't win.  Bob never made that part of the deal. 

I had such a wonderful 10‑year career with so many legendary players.  Five Super Bowls, and a lifetime of memories.  So how does a D‑II kid from a small ‑‑ how does a kid from a small D‑II school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, make it to five Super Bowls and the Hall of Fame?

I may be the only one who knows how truly slim that chance was.  But if I can make it, anyone can achieve their goals.  The key is to never quit, never give up.  Keep trying, keep learning, and keep growing. 

My roots are still in the Arkansas hills, and I return to the happy place up there often.  I was hiking there the other day contemplating this speech when I looked over to see a huge storm brewing over the tops of the hills.  I still had a couple of miles to go on that rocky trail, but all I could think of, that I, and more importantly my cell phone, were about to get drenched. 

So I liked the challenge and I knew I was up to it.  I knew better than to look too far down the long path as it would seem too imposing.  Rather than that, I just put my head down, made sure that I made it past every rock without stumbling. 

I realized that was a metaphor for my life.  I've never taken anything for granted.  I've never looked too far down the road.  I've stayed in the moment, focused on that rock right in front of me. 

I did trip on a rock or two that day, just as I have in my life.  But I didn't get discouraged.  I got right back up and pushed even harder.  I took one step at a time, avoided one rock at a time, and before you know it, I'd achieved a goal. 

One last thing has been vitally important to me, and it is my faith in God.  I've had good fortune in my life, but God has always been in control. 

(Cheers and applause.)

God gives us the freedom to choose our challenges and how we'll face those challenges and opportunities in our lives. You really have to believe in yourself and trust that God will be with you. 

I like that Proverbs 3 says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path. So keep a steady pace. 

(Cheers and applause.)

Remember that you're the only one who drives your train.  If you trust in God and make the right choices, you will succeed.  You'll make it to your own Hall of Fame, whatever that might be.  Thank you.

(Cheers and applause.)