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James Harris
Position(s)
Quarterback
Jersey #(s)
12
Born July 20, 1947 (1947-07-20) (age 62)
Monroe, Louisiana
Career information
Year(s) 19691981
NFL Draft 1969 / Round: 8 / Pick: 192
College Grambling State
Professional teams
Career stats
TD-INT 45-59
Yards 8,136
QB Rating 67.3
Stats at NFL.com
Career highlights and awards

James Larnell "Shack" Harris (born July 20, 1947 in Monroe, Louisiana) is a senior personnel executive for the Detroit Lions. He is also a former American football quarterback in the NFL and former vice president for player personnel of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Contents

College career

He played college football for the Grambling State University Tigers from 1965 to 1968. Under the guidance of head coach Eddie Robinson, Grambling won or shared all four SWAC titles while Harris was a player and he was named MVP of the 1967 Orange Blossom Classic.

Pro Football career

He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1969 draft by the Buffalo Bills and would soon join fellow rookie O.J. Simpson in the starting backfield. He was the first black player to start a season at quarterback and was also the second black player to start in any game as quarterback in the modern era for a professional football team (Marlin Briscoe of the Denver Broncos was the first in 1968. Interestingly, a few of Harris's completions in 1969 went to Briscoe, who had been traded to the Bills and converted to a receiver.) After three years with the Bills, Harris was released by the Bills and signed by the Los Angeles Rams in 1972.

Ram Years

In 1973, Harris was the understudy to veteran John Hadl as the Rams returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1969 as they went 12-2. Hadl was then traded to Green Bay, and Harris became the first string QB for the Rams for the 1974 season. He led the team to their second straight NFC Western Division title, and their first playoff victory (19-10 over the Washington Redskins) since 1951. Harris then became the first African-American QB to start a Conference Championship Game. The Rams lost the NFC Championship Game to the Minnesota Vikings 14-10 as the Vikings were aided by some controversial officiating. Harris was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team in 1974 and was awarded MVP of that game.

The strong armed Harris was somewhat stymied by Ram coach Chuck Knox's conservative, "run-first" offensive philosophy, but still helped lead the team to another division title in 1975. However, he injured his shoulder very early in the Rams' game 13 win over the Packers; backup Ron Jaworski then led the Rams to wins against Green Bay and Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh, as well as to a 35-23 win over the Cardinals in the divisional playoff game. Stating that a "player cannot lose his starting job due to injury," Knox named Harris the starter for the NFC Championship games vs. Dallas as he appeared to be recovered from his injury. Harris' first pass was intercepted, and after two more incompletions and a Dallas 21-0 first quarter lead, he was pulled for Jaworski. It didn't matter as Dallas went on to a 37-7 win.

The 1976 season started well for Harris and the Rams as they were undefeated after 4 games, and Harris threw for a career best 436 yards in a 31-28 game 4 shootout win over Miami. The next week however on Monday night, the Rams were shut out for the first time ever in L.A., 16-0 by their rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The improved 49ers featured a defensive line nicknamed the "Gold Rush"; Harris was sacked 10 times and suffered a season ending injury late in the game. Harris' backup Pat Haden took over and led the team to a 7-2 record over the final 9 games and the Rams finally clinched the division over the stubborn 49ers in week 12. Haden then led the Rams to a divisional playoff win in Dallas over the Cowboys, 14-12. But once again the Rams Super Bowl hopes died in Minnesota in the NFC championship game, 24-13.

Harris fully expected to regain his starting job for the 1977 season as coach Knox always said "a player cannot lose his starting job due to injury." Harris also hoped Knox would open up the offense more. However, the Rams made the misguided acquisition of an aging Joe Namath (who only lasted 4 games) and traded Harris to the San Diego Chargers. When he left the Rams he had the highest career completion average of any quarterback in team history (55.4%) and had been an integral part of four straight NFC West Champions.

Later Career

Harris was understandably jolted by the trade from a pernenial playoff team to a team in rebuilding mode. He had lost his first string position with the Rams only because of injury, and he was traded to a team that already had a young first string quarterback they were building around - Dan Fouts. Harris played in San Diego for 3 years, starting a total of 11 games, primarily when Fouts was injured.

Thorough it all, Harris maintined a quiet dignity. When some reporters suggested race played a factor in his demotion by the Rams, Harris refused to get involved in that type of exchange and maintained that the Rams' decisions -even the ones he disagreed with - were made based on football only.

Honors

He has been inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame, the Grambling Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Front office career

Harris served as the vice president for player personnel for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He resigned on December 23, 2008.[1]

He also served on the NFL subcommittee on college relations.

On February 2, 2009, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Detroit Lions were set to hire Harris as a personnel executive [2].

On February 12, 2009, the Detroit Lions officially named Harris as Senior Personnel Executive. Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew has a long history with Harris, and indicated he was the only individual who was offered the job. Harris will assist in all areas of player personnel in an advisory role [3].

References

See also

External links

Preceded by
John Hadl
Los Angeles Rams Starting Quarterbacks
1974-1976
Succeeded by
Pat Haden
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