Major “Excitement” Harris

(We aren’t talking about the musician though…or are we? Double life?)

Quick Hits

Position: Quarterback

Main Team: West Virginia

Other Teams:

  • Los Angeles Raiders (Practice Squad, 1990)
  • British Columbia Lions (CFL, 1990)
  • Columbus/Cleveland Thunderbolts (AFL, 1991-1992)
  • Washington Marauders (PSFL, 1992)
  • Charleston Swamp Foxes (AF2, 2003)


  • Pennsylvania High School Football Player of the Year
  • A Sporting News Top 100 High School Prospect
  • 1988 ECAC Player of the Year
  • 1989 ECAC Player of the Year
  • 1988 Heisman Trophy fifth-place
  • 1989 Heisman Trophy third-place
    Drafted in the 12th round with the 317th pick by the Raiders
  • Harris was announced to the 2008 College Football Hall of Fame ballot as a nominee for induction. (Link) Note: If you’re an NFF member, please vote for Harris!
  • Harris’ longest pass of his career was 70 yards, which ironically was eclipsed by his career long run of 75 yards.

Major attended Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of his most memorable high school plays was when he three a game winning 79 yard touchdown pass to Tony Horne on the last play of the game against Indiana High School.

Major wanted to attend the University of Pittsburgh, but chose West Virginia because Pittsburgh coach Mike Gottfried only wanted him to play Defensive Back. Bet coach Gottfried wishes he could have that decision to make again. (wikipedia)

Freshman Year (1987)

  • Threw for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 615 yards and 6 TD’s in his Freshman season.
  • The Mountaineers eventually lost to Oklahoma State in the Sun Bowl.

Sophomore Year (1988 )

  • As a Sophomore he led West Virginia to their first-ever undefeated, untied regular season. Against Boston College Harris threw for 297 yards. Harris led the Mountaineers to a 51-30 win over nemesis Penn State. Harris out-gained the entire Penn State team by himself (301 yards – 292 yards).
  • Threw for 1,915 yards and 14 TDs, while he rushed for 610 yards and 6 TDs.
  • Had the highest passing-efficiency rating of any college quarterback during the season.
  • Totaled 2,348 total yards of offense and averaging 8.4 yards per touch.
  • Lost to Notre Dame in the the Mountaineers first ever National Championship game.

Junior Year (1989)

  • Had 163 rushing yards against Rutgers.
  • Harris threw for 2,058 yards and 17 TDs on the season, along with 936 and 6 TDs rushing. Harris set school records at that time for most total offense and quarterback rushing yards.
  • Led the Mountaineers to the Gator Bowl where they lost to Clemson 27-7.

Notice all the excuses “wikipedia” has (or dare I say, WV fans) for Harris’ losses in bowl games:

National Championship: On the third play of the game, Major Harris was hit and separated his shoulder. Harris stayed in the game, but didn’t throw the ball that much, scrambling instead. At halftime, Harris fixed his shoulder, but he still could not throw deep. West Virginia never threatened Notre Dame’s lead, and the Fighting Irish won 34-21.

Gator Bowl: It is often regarded that the poor play in the game by Harris was due to the Mountaineers’ poor blocking.

Okay, we get the picture wikipedia….. he couldn’t win a Bowl game.

Senior Year

Well, Harris never had a Senior Year. He was convinced to leave school early to go to the NFL. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 NFL Draft but never made it off the practice squad. Maybe this guy should of taken a hint from Harris:

“The Play”

Harris is regarded as one of the greatest players in West Virginia history. But let’s be honest….. he’s forgotten to a lot of us. He is most known for what WV fans call “The Play” in 1988 against Penn State:

“Against Penn State in 1988, as the play clock wound down, Harris forgot the play he had called in the huddle. As soon as the ball was snapped, the entire West Virginia team went in one direction and Harris went the other. He faked out the entire Penn State team leaving no less than seven tacklers grabbing air on the way to probably the most exciting touchdown run in school history — a mere 26-yards forever embedded in the memories of West Virginia football fans. West Virginia won the game 51-30.”

“Harris’ coach, Don Nehlen, said of the run, ‘I had called 37 and he ran 36. Everybody else on our offense went one way, and Major went the other. He literally ran through the Penn State defense for a touchdown of about 30 yards. After he scored, Major came to the sideline and apologized. He said, “My fault, Coach.” People still ask me about that play all of the time…If there was a contest for most exciting player, Major would win it hands down.'” (wikipedia)

Oregon also has a moment that changed their football program, however, Duck fans call it “The Pick”, not “The Play”. We might have to have a poll in the next few weeks which was the more memorable play.

Judge for yourself: Here is “The Play”, followed by “The Pick”:

I have to say, the announcing is way better with Jerry Allen in “The Pick”. Harris’ touchdown led West Virginia to the National Championship, however, they still probably win that game. Wheaton’s pick led the Ducks to the Rose Bowl and if he doesn’t pick it, the Ducks don’t go. Don’t worry West Virginia fans, Oregon has many RFP’s (Akili Smith).

Here’s a 1989 highlight reel of Major Harris:

Anybody remember the Professional Spring Football League? Harris also played in that: Link

And how about the real Major Harris?


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