ARKADELPHIA — Ouachita Baptist University alumnus, former Dallas Cowboys safety and Super Bowl champion Cliff Harris has been named as a member of the 2020 Professional Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class. Harris, along with 12 others, was revealed as an inductee by Good Morning Football Jan. 15 for the Hall’s celebration of the National Football League’s (NFL) 100th season.
“We are very excited for Cliff and the outstanding accomplishment of being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said David Sharp, Ouachita director of athletics. “There was never any question about his qualifications on the field. What a lot of people do not see or realize about Cliff is how caring and giving he is off the field. He has demonstrated this over the years I have known him through many avenues, including gifts of his time and resources to Ouachita athletics and others.”
Harris was one of 10 senior candidates and three other contributors included in the selection. Two coaches were announced last week and five modern-day finalists will be elected Feb. 1, rounding out this year’s full class of 20 new inductees headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m so grateful, and I’m without words right now,” said Harris to Hall of Fame President David Baker as he was notified of the honor. “What an elite group for a kid out of Ouachita Baptist to join.”
After the announcement, Harris said, “I’m just thinking about my mom and dad. Dad guided me so much through my life through his toughness. He was a diabetic, and he lost his vision. He was a football player, but he taught me how to be tough, and mentally tough, and how to live my life. He’s been my example.
“I’m so thankful for my family, for Ouachita Baptist and my coach, and Coach Tom Landry,” he said. “There is also Gene Stallings, and Gil Brandt. Gil Brandt means so much to me – for finding me at Ouachita and helping me play when the odds were against me. I’m so very thankful for so many people who played a big role in my life. It’s just incredible. I praise God.”
Born in Fayetteville, Harris attended both Hot Springs High School and Des Arc High School, where he played football as the quarterback. He later attended and played football for the Ouachita Tigers, first as the cornerback before switching to safety his senior year. He graduated from Ouachita in 1970. Throughout his football career, Harris has played quarterback, cornerback, safety, kickoff and punt returner.
From the time he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and began playing as a rookie in 1970, Harris was consistently in the defensive backfield as a safety until 1979. Nicknamed “Captain Crash” because of his relentless and aggressive tackles, Harris saw nine postseasons in his 10-year career with the Cowboys and appeared in five Super Bowls, two of which were victories, including Super Bowl VI in 1972 – the Cowboy’s first world championship win. Harris also was a Pro Bowler in six straight seasons starting in 1974 and was a four-time All-Pro selection, tallying 29 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.
Later, he was named to the 1970s Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1970s All-Decade Team, the 1985 Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004 and the 2015 Texas Hall of Fame.
The Cliff Harris Award, given annually by the Little Rock Touchdown Club, recognizes the best small college defensive player of the year in order to recognize and encourage football players at small universities. Ouachita’s Cliff Harris Stadium, built and dedicated in September of 2014 at Ouachita football’s historic A.U. Williams Field, also is named in his honor.
“Having my name on the stadium has prompted a lot of reflections for me,” Harris said in 2014, following the dedication. “I know I am a blessed guy to have many generous friends who have invested in something as important to me as Ouachita.”
Rachel Moreno is editorial coordinator for Ouachita Baptist University.