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Harris Flies as a 'Hawk

  Legend of the Game


Richard D. Harris

Jan 21, 1948 - July 26, 2011


Eastside Express (1984-85, 1988) Puget Sound Jets (1991-1996)

Richard Harris was not a highly decorated minor league coach, but it was getting his feet wet as a coach in the minor leagues that helped launch a legend in the Canadian Football League coaching ranks.

Harris was a first round draft pick out of Eddie Robinson's Grambling University in 1971 going to the Philadelphia Eagles as the number 5 pick overall after an All-American campaign in 1970.  Teaching and coaching was already on his mind as he spent the off-seasons of 1972 and 1973 at Stroudsburg State teaching health and physical education and as an assistant football coach.

Traded to the Bears in 1974, Richard spent the next two seasons in Chicago before being picked up off waivers by Seattle in 1976.  He got his break as a starter when Al Cowlings, later of news fame as the driver of OJ Simpson's infamous white bronco, failed his physical forcing Coach Patera to name Harris the starter at right defensive end where he concluded his playing career in 1977 after seven seasons in the NFL.  Following his retirement, he became an assistant coach at Roosevelt High school from 1980-1981.

In 1984 Harris surfaced with the NFA's Eastside Express where he coached the team through 1985 and as an assistant in 1988 during an undefeated NWFL season.  The Express won the new title following four years of heartache in the NFA at the hands of the Auburn Panthers.

After the Express moved to the MLFS in 1989, Harris found his way to the Puget Sound Jets who had just finished a 1-7 inaugural campaign in 1990.  Harris built the team into a championship program and in 1993 again had an undefeated program with a league title to it's name.  He stayed with the Jets until 1996 winning 4 consecutive NWFL division titles but losing his final game to the Fresno Bandits in the Pacific Football League Championship.

The millennium dawned and Harris was tabbed as Head Coach of the indoor Portland Prowlers where he earned coach of the year honors after leading the team to a 13-4 season and a berth in the IPFL Championship.

In 2002 the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League named Harris Lead Defensive Coach and Defensive Line Coach.  He would hold the Defensive Line Coach position with BC from 2001-2004.

In 2005 he coached with the Ottawa Renegades before being hired in 2006 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  Richard had been named assistant head coach for the 2011 season and it was at the Bombers practice facility that Harris collapsed and passed away bringing a shock to the CFL.

Throughout his CFL career, Harris' defensive lines were widely recognized as the best in the league, and the "Big Bear" would take his defensive linemen out to breakfast on game days.  Players he coached proclaimed Richard as one of the most loving coaching around.  Former defensive end Tom Canada said "I'd never want to meet him in a bar fight, but he was one of the most loving people I've known".

Career Highlights:

2011 - Named Assistant Head Coach (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

2006-2010 - Defensive Line Coach (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

2005 - Defensive Line Coach (Ottawa Renegades)

2001-2004 - Defensive Line Coach (British Columbia Lions)

2000 - Head Coach (Portland Prowlers)

1991 - 1996 - Head Coach (Puget Sound Jets)

1984-1985; 1988 - Head Coach (Eastside Express)

1980-1981 - Assistant Coach (Roosevelt High School, Seattle, WA) 

1976 - 1977 - Defensive Line (Seattle Seahawks)

1974-1975 - Defensive Line (Chicago Bears)

1972-1973 - Assistant Coach (Stroudsburg State)

1971 - All-Rookie Team (Philadelphia Eagles) 

1971-1973 -  Defensive Line, 1st Round Draft Pick (Philadelphia Eagles)

1970 - All American (Grambling University)