Toronto Argonauts





 Eric Harris - Defensive Back - 1977-79 - Memphis


Former University of Memphis Tiger star defender Harris dies - Ron Higgins - Memphis Commercial Appeal - 23-02-2012

The first time Eric Harris pulled on a football jersey and popped on a helmet for a new team, he usually had an impact.
In his first game as a freshman cornerback for what was then Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1973, he had six tackles and an interception in a win over Louisville.
In his rookie year with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 1977, he returned an interception 115 yards for a touchdown against Montreal.


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On September 6, 1977, Harris intercepted a pass against Montreal and raced it 115 yards for a touchdown to set the club record for longest interception return in a regular season game, it still stands today. That season, Harris returned a team-leading 7 interceptions for 166 yards, which is still the eighth-highest return yards

Eric Harris     Memphis  
Yr Team Int Yds Avg TD Lg
1977 Tor 7 166 23.7 1 115
1978 Tor 3 27 9.0 0 14
1979 Tor 3 12 4.0 0 12
Total 3 13 205 15.8 1 115

 total in Boatmen history. He totalled six interceptions over his final two seasons in Double Blue, again leading the team in 1978 with three. He returned eight fumbles over the course of his career.
At 6-feet, 4-inches, and over 200 lbs. during his playing days, he was one of the biggest and most intimidating players in pro-football. He played 48 regular season games with the Argonauts and was named an East All-Star in 1977 and 1978.

And in his first season with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 1980, Harris had a string of six straight games with at least one interception.
Harris, 56, a former Hamilton High star and one of the most honored defenders in UofM football history from 1973-76, died at home in Little Rock on Sunday after a heart attack.

"Eric was an incredible athlete, one of the most gifted natural athletes I'd ever seen," said former center Bob Rush, captain of the 1976 Tigers and Harris' teammate. "He was really tall for a cornerback, he was almost 6-4. Truth is Eric could have been an all-American at wide receiver or cornerback. He was a great cover corner and with his size he could clean a ball carrier's clock when it came time for run support."

From his first days on campus, Harris was an impact player. As a four-time All-South Independent team selection, he had 218 career tackles with 27 pass breakups and 13 interceptions (which still ranks third in school history).
In his senior season, he was selected to four all-America teams. He also played in the Blue-Gray Game, the Senior Bowl, and was regarded as one of the top two defensive backs in the 1977 draft.
But before he could be drafted, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. That didn't deter the NFL's Chiefs from drafting him in the fourth round, hoping he'd eventually join them.

Harris played three seasons for Toronto and was a CFL all-star before making a lucrative move to the NFL in 1980.
He took advantage of a provision in the NFL Players Association contract that allowed an athlete to sell himself to the highest bidder. The contract stipulated that after two or more years in Canada, a player could come home and auction his services. The club that drafted him got to sign him if it matched the highest offer. The Chiefs matched a Saints offer and Harris signed a guaranteed four-year deal worth $1.4 million.

He proved to be well worth the money. In his each of his two first seasons with the Chiefs, he had seven interceptions. Former Chiefs' coach Marv Levy once said, "We had a super secondary, but it wouldn't have been super without Eric."
Harris lasted six seasons and 71 games in the NFL, three years each with the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams. He had 21 career interceptions and a touchdown.


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