Major Harris was special. He was one of those players that become iconic and build a legacy at a certain place. That place was West Virginia University.
The Pittsburgh native had his sights set on coming to West Virginia. At the time West Virginia had a black quarterback in John Talley. Harris said that was one of the more importance factors in coming to West Virginia over schools like Pitt because he felt he would actually get a chance to play.
“When you’re young you hear stories about ‘well they ain’t going to play a black quarterback or this schools won’t play a black quarterback,’” Harris said. “At the time we had one in John Talley. So, my whole thinking was I didn’t want to go somewhere they didn’t have a black quarterback already. Being that John Talley was here that was perfect.”
In the late 1980’s Harris and his team looked like a team you would see today. Harris, one of the better dual threat quarterbacks, was able to pass and run at an elite level. For the younger generation, Harris was Pat White before Pat White, and helped put West Virginia on the map as a legitimate football team.
Although Harris racked up numerous records and accomplishments at West Virginia, he was always focused on being selfless and being a good teammate more than anything.
“I feel uncomfortable when a player comes up to me even like today, ‘congratulations’, because we played together. We’re part of a team,” Harris said. “I kind of feel uncomfortable when a fellow player says that to me. Making me feel like I was out there running by myself, so I kind of feel uncomfortable with that. I appreciate everything that comes with playing football but I never try to think of in terms of I did all this myself.”
However humble Harris wants to try to be, the praise is well earned.
In 1988, West Virginia finished the season 11-1, losing in the Fiesta Bowl, which was deemed the national championship that year. Before getting to that stage however, the Mountaineers defeated Syracuse 31-9 to seal an 11-0 regular season. Unfortunately for Harris, he would get hurt on the third play of the game in the Fiesta Bowl, with the Mountaineers losing to Notre Dame 34-21 in what was the national championship.
That year, Harris finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, with Barry Sanders winning it that season. The year after in 1989, Harris finished third, losing to Houston’s Andre Ware.
Unfortunately for Harris, after that 1989 season he left school early. He ended up getting drafted in the 12th round, raising questions on what could’ve been.
But rather than looking at that, by looking at his body of work over his three years in Morgantown, it was quite historic what he did.
In three years at West Virginia, Harris passed for 5,119 yards and 41 touchdowns, while rushing for 2058 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Many West Virginia fans will remember “the play.” Against Penn State in 1988, Harris ran for a 26-yard touchdown. Harris was supposed to go left, but went right and the play looked dead from the beginning. After realizing he was on the wrong side of the field, he then evaded five Penn State defenders en route to a 51-30 victory.
Put it simply, Harris was different. No matter how good of a player he was on the field, he aspired to be the best he could off the field. And now, his number nine will live in Mountaineer football history forever.
The phrase you can stop the run, you can stop the pass, but you can’t stop the major will be synonymous with his name forever.