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No. 36

With Ron Cherubini

Clint Harris

Rangy DB Roamed the
Field Like Few Others

One of the Pirates' Greatest All-Time Defensive Backs Reflects on his Life

By Ron Cherubini

Clint Harris (1st Pirate from left) defends against Duke.
(Photo: ECU SID)

PTM Bonus Audio

Clint Harris on...
 • Holtz hire
 • Nancy Bouie Emory
 • Why ECU?


If Clint Harris could go back and change anything in his athletic career, it wouldn’t be his all-too-short stint in the National Football League. It wouldn’t be his choice of colleges or his dual commitment to both football and track.

No, if he could change anything, it would likely be to somehow re-write the end of East Carolina's storied 1983 campaign. He wishes that season's well-deserving top-20 team that went 8-3 in the face of one of the nation’s most brutal schedules had received the bowl bid it deserved.

“The one thing that really bothered me… I mean, it really was bad was that you never really got a chance to say good-bye,” the dominating former free safety from Chesapeake, VA, said. “We were all thinking that we were going to play another game, no doubt in our minds, so the last game we never even thought it would be the end. I really wish we had had a chance to say goodbye… it was bad for all of us.”

Instead, after all of the bowl pundits had concluded that an East Carolina win on the road at Southern Miss would assuredly land the Pirates in the Independence Bowl, the victory was followed by the spirit-shattering news that the bowls would collectively shut out the Pirates while passing along invites to mediocre teams like the 6-5 UNC-Chapel Hill club just down the road.

It was an abrupt and painful departure for one of the most athletically gifted players to ever come through the gates at Ficklen Stadium.

Still, Harris cherished the entirety of his career as a Pirate and to this day follows his alma mater on the gridiron.

“ECU helped me be tenacious and develop my drive,” he said. “Coming from a school that wasn’t as well known, it makes you work that much harder. I think everyone grows up and then something happens and maybe you possess an ability to do something at a high level and because of it, you then become known (in the public eye).

“You never know what is going to happen and then it happens to you and you stand out. I think how I am now and when I go to some of the companies who I work with, I go in as an unknown, and after 6 to 8 months I’m at the top of the food chain. I learned how to do that at ECU. I learned how to believe in myself first. I really appreciate that from ECU and going back now and seeing how they have expanded and how the stadium looks, I feel great knowing maybe I had something to do with it. I don’t get down there that much but I go online every week to see how they are doing and I’m like, ‘Man, I have to get down there and show those kids how to do this or that.’”

For most of his athletic career, Harris certainly showed how to do “this” and “that.”

As a boy growing up in Chesapeake, it was just he and his sister, but the extended family was much bigger, counting a host of aunts and uncles and “many, many, many cousins.”

The young Harris didn’t need to look very far to find inspiration in the football world as his cousin, Charlie Stoops, played for the Baltimore Colts on the 1971 Super Bowl Championship team. While his aspirations were developed early through his cousin, his ability to play the game himself was honed in many a backyard ballgame.

“Just playing in the neighborhood,” he recollected of his beginnings in the sport. “I was always the shortest guy, but the quickest and strongest. I played with mostly guys who were bigger than me, obviously, and that made me tougher and mean enough to play football. But, I didn’t start playing organized football until the 8th grade and then I didn’t play again until really, a little bit my sophomore year. It was my junior year when I really started playing organized football. I did a lot weight lifting in the mean time and I ran track as a junior as well.”

His love for football drove his track career as well.

“I always wanted to stay in shape for football cause I really liked football, so I ran track to do that,” he explained. “I was really good friends with the track coach at the time in high school and he needed some sprinters and I was kind of fast, but I would say I wasn’t extremely fast at that time. But track kept me in shape. And then as a senior, I got really fast. I still hold the record at Great Bridge High School in the 100 meters and went on to become (prep) All-America in track. I had, I think, the fourth fastest time in the nation as a senior.

“But football was always my first dedication, track was just to keep me in shape for football. I played the game since I was a toddler and I remember that I got my first football uniform when I was eight and from then, it was just football, football, football. I just got into track to stay in shape. I knew I was fast, but I never knew I would turn out to be as fast as I turned out to be.”

After moving to D.C. for a year, the family returned to Chesapeake and it was that year, his junior year, that Harris began to emerge as a bonafide star at Great Bridge High School.

“My junior year — we always had a weight lifting program at my high school and we went around to all the schools competing in weightlifting — but I was all of 165 pounds at the time,” he said. But I could lift 265 pounds over my head as a 16-year-old. That is what got me involved and got the coaches starting to looking at me and saying, ‘This guy is kind of strong. Lets see what he can do.’

“So, my junior year I played and had a decent season. I was like all-city at defensive back. I ran track to stay in shape as a junior and won the city meet. After that, going into my senior year, football was real good and was promising going into it. However, I was playing basketball during the off-season to stay in shape as well and messed up my ankle real bad. Our team would go away to Chowan College for preseason and I wasn’t able to practice at all.”

Despite the injury, Harris persevered.

“So, I didn’t even start the first game,” he said. “I didn’t play any offense, just played a little defense, but I had two weeks rest on my ankle. That first game (back) against Minor High School, I had two interceptions, which was like my coming out. And the headlines in the papers said like, ‘Star repays two weeks off.’

“After that, it kind of took off. We had a pretty good team and only lost one game that year. It took me into track, but I still had football legs going in. It took some time for me to get my track legs back and I went on to win all my races and (be named) all-America.”

Harris’ exploits on the field and on the track opened a lot of doors of opportunity when colleges started coming around and he had his heart set on competing in both sports — a decisive advantage in ECU’s favor.

“I had both football and track schools calling and I was definitely going to go to a place where I could pretty much do both,” Harris said. “I think I was one of the top 100 recruits in the nation and I visited a bunch of schools and had a suitcase full of letters from colleges. It was a fun, fun time for a 17-year-old, you know… having that many people come at you and give you that much attention.

“I went to a place that was far enough from home, but close enough for people to come watch me play if they wanted to. I felt comfortable so I basically visited North Carolina schools, Temple, Iowa State, Brigham Young, because some people I knew had gone to those schools. ECU was, I think, my last visit, and it just stuck in my mind with Coach (Ed) Emory and Nancy (Emory). They were really, really fun and seemed really happy about me coming down. I knew I could come down and do both sports and Coach Bill Carson knew about me already. I was able to do that and go down there and get an opportunity.”

Clint Harris & Friends (Photo: Charles "Choo" Justice)

 As anyone around Emory knew, it was then-wife Nancy who closed many, if not most, of the recruiting deals for the coach.

With Harris, it was no different.

“Oh yeah, Nancy was bright and always had a smile,” he said. “Always opened her arms to you to make you feel warm and welcome. You didn’t feel like you were away from home in a strange land. I think a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school wanted that motherly kind of person who you could talk to, made you feel welcome, fed you if you were hungry. We would go over to the house and play games like every kid wants to. She probably brought more people in there than Ed did there. You just couldn’t say no to Nancy.”

Though Nancy was a big influence, the school itself was a powerful attraction.

“I had always heard that ECU was just a teachers’ college,” Harris said. “But when you got down there you saw that they did have an enthusiastic crowd and a lot of people there and that they were kind of looked at like the stepchild of all the ACC schools in Carolina. I had been to UNC about seven times and the more I visited there, I hated it. You know, just… ohhh, ookey, and like they just thought they were better than everybody else. So I thought, ‘I really don’t want to get involved in something like that.’

“I would rather go somewhere that I could put my name … a stamp on it. Knowing that we had to play (UNC) a couple times… we didn’t beat them in my tenure there, but every game I played them, I had great games. ... East Carolina up to the 1983 season, you’re kind of like, ‘Well, they were a good, par team but not ready for the 1-A league.’ But then after the ‘83 year, when we were ranked, that kind of put us on the map for the all the teams that have been at ECU since.”

And his decision was greeted with excitement from the home front.

“It was always my decision,” he said. “People wanted me to go where I was comfortable. That was why it was easy. I wasn’t pressured into going to any particular school. I did have someone who wanted me to go to BYU and that is why I took a visit out there. But no one really said, ‘I want you to go here or you have to go there.’ I was very open to all the schools but I just went where I felt most comfortable. It was definitely my decision to go there since I was the one who was going to have to be there, live and be accepted or not. Go to classes and the other stuff.

“Everyone in my family loved sports. My uncles primarily play basketball. I was always the roughest and toughest grandson/nephew that everybody wanted to come see play. So, when I started getting all the letters, they were excited as I was. No one had gotten that many letters so they were all enthusiastic and very supportive of whatever it was I was doing. Also my coaches in high school were just thrilled because it had been a few years since they had somebody getting as much publicity that I was at that time. I think we probably had two other guys after me to get that kind of publicity as well, but up to that point, you couldn’t really tell they had a lot of players coming through until that happened. So, I was really happy and I think they were just as happy as I was.”

Harris closes in for a tackle against Miami. (Photo: ECU SID)


Short Track to Pirate Stardom

It took Harris only two games as a reserve to work his way into the starting lineup. Once he did, he never relinquished his anchor position in the secondary.

“I ended up starting the third game of the season at free safety which I thought was pretty impressive considering that ECU had a pretty good defensive team and that was what they were known for,” he said. “So, once I got into the lineup, it was like… you couldn’t get me out.”

And the new talent in the program came to quickly identify each other.

“I’ll tell you, the first person I met was Earnest Byner,” he said. “Earnest and I arrived on the same day and were the only ones there. We just hung out and both of us were kind of excited but also nervous because you didn’t know what to expect. Your going to a Division 1-A school now and the guys are a little bigger and a little stronger and we all made a pact once the other freshmen started coming in that we would stick together.”

That group was a very tight one and it began that first year.

“I remember all the freshmen were in this suite — 216 in Belk Dorm,” he recalled. “All the upper classman had this thing where they would go to each suite of the freshmen and beat them up. So we all huddled in one room so we said, ‘When they come — we had myself, my roommate Steve Hamilton, Ronald and Donald Reid, Jeff Pegues were there along with this little kicker named Pierre — and we all huddled in the room and when the upper classmen came and the door cracked open, we started punching them, so they left us alone.

“So from then on, we always stuck together and we just weren’t going to be punked off. Some of us were playing offense — Steve was on offense at first at TE — and some were playing defense, and we were all on the scout team together.”

That toughness also carried over to the field right away.

“I was just trying to hit whoever came up near me,” Harris said. “Whoever the star running back was. At the time it was Anthony Collins and Theodore Sutton, and I said, ‘I’m going to knock’em down.’ And that was what was going on since we had to go against the first team. And I did that all during camp and it earned respect. And once you did that, you got to go over to the main field, so to speak, and practice with the first or second-teamers.”

Though Harris was heavily talented, he knew he had to learn and learn fast to be as good as he could. In retrospect, he points to Emory and his staff for helping him become a great player.

“As I got on, coach Al Mason — who was my last position coach there — ... we really butted heads because I was coming off an Honorable Mention All-America season going into my senior year and he was a new coach trying to change things. And I’m thinking, ‘I know what I know because I had already done it.’ So, we butted heads there a little. But that pretty much helped me.

“My first year, we had a couple of guys from the Portsmouth, VA, area and one guy named Snake, or at least we called him Snake — he was a quarterback named (Carlton) Nelson. He was from my area and I talked to those guys to see how things were in college, but I think the freshmen pretty much made our own pact and, unbeknownst to us, all of us did well and we were all talented guys in our positions, strong-willed and worked hard. I remember we were in the weight room when Terry Long came in and we all thought he was just a monster. We were like, ‘Who is this big baldheaded dude?’ It was an interesting time in my life.”

His physical gifts and the know-how that he learned from the coaches made up two thirds of the recipe for Harris's success. And like many of his contemporaries, he looked to Emory for that final ingredient.

“Coach Emory was hard-nosed, tough-nosed and definitely knew what he wanted,” he said. “Along the same lines, though, you knew he cared about you. Not just in football, but he cared about you. He was a lot like my high school coach. You can do all of the coaching, but you’ve got boys trying to grow up to be men. So, you have to have a little bit of nurturing about you as a college coach. He was definitely tough — we had four practices a day for a week. That was absolutely crazy. I don’t know how you could ever fit four practices in one day. Then I started hearing stories about winter conditioning, so I ran track. I actually didn’t do spring ball full time until going into my senior year.”

You would think that a star player wanting to run track would not set too well with Emory.

“Coach knew I ran track too and he knew I would be in shape,” he said. “I had proven myself already. I had come in and was the starting free safety as a freshman, so it wasn’t like I had to win my position. There was no one else to challenge me. He knew I knew the plays, I could run, I could tackle. Winter conditioning was mainly to get you in shape and then spring ball was just to show what you could learn. Coach had no differences with that at all.”

With Emory’s blessing Harris explored his track development with the legendary Pirates coach Carson. And Harris made sure the two sports could co-exist.

“Track was nice,” he said. “I ran indoor track during the winter time and I had never run indoor track before and it was kind of different. Trying to come from your football legs — which when you're playing football you are not running straight all the time — was difficult. Your straddles are a little bit different from running track. The first few meets, my times were good but they weren’t as good as I could run until probably a third of the way through the season.”

And he found success on the oval.

“I was doing a dual role with football and mind you, I was on one scholarship and that was for football,” he said. “I won a few meets, which was fine, and I think we made it to nationals in the 4 x 400 relay and that got me out of winter conditioning.”

Though he sounds like he didn’t take his track all that serious, it isn’t true. In fact, Harris found a level of competition there that he could not indulge in on the gridiron.

“Track is all you,” he said. “You can be selfish in track because it is what you put out that is judged. You may run on a relay team with four guys, but for the most part you can’t blame anyone but yourself. If you have a false start, you have a false start. If you didn’t win that race, then you lost that race. People who run track need immediate gratification and I’m no different there. The whole thing is over in less than 10 seconds, or at least it should be. I really like the immediate gratification and immediate individual attention track gave me. I liked the travel. People saw who you were as opposed to football, where you are covered (in gear).

“I liked track and it put me in a better position for when I came back to join football because I was already in shape. I never had to go through December not in shape. I pretty much worked on getting my bulk back because I was leaner when I ran track. That would take about six weeks and I never lost my speed and I never lost my desire and intensity that I had when I played football.”

Well before 1983 arrived, Harris and many of his mates could see the team progressing toward that breakout season.

“Yeah, I think as far as the team was concerned, we knew we were definitely becoming a good team,” he said. “Everyone knew and trusted each other and that was really big for us. We knew what the other person could do and would do at a given time. We saw each other working in gym and on the field at practice. We ate together, we went out together, we lived together and we didn’t want to let each other down.

“We knew that Earnest could run the ball, we knew that Terry would knock you out and we knew that Norwood Vann and (Damon) Pope could catch the ball. We knew that (Kevin) Ingram could throw the ball. We knew that if everyone did their jobs we would be ok. That is what happened in 1983. We knew if we were not THE strongest, then we were one of the top two strongest teams in the nation. We knew no one was going to break loose for 100 yards on us, because they couldn’t break loose on us.

"It worked out well. I was really happy that I went to ECU because of the good times and because it molded me to the man I eventually became.”

From an individual standpoint, Harris says 1983 was not a great year for him statistically.

“1983 was weird for me because I only had 3 or 4 interceptions and I got all of those in the first five games, because after that, nobody threw my way again. When I saw the highlight film from 1983, it was great. I noticed that after I picked off four, though they called one back, against Florida, everyone stopped throwing at me. They threw it at Kevin Walker. Kevin was like one of my sons as we called them. The defensive backs were probably the closest group on that team. Kevin, Amos Adams, Keith Brown — who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2001 — and Vernard Wynn were just the closest friends. Definitely we were all straight.”

The closeness of the team and the on-field success was a life-altering experience for him. Harris also admits, it was one hell of a fun ride. He shared some of his personal standout memories.

“The games against Carolina were both good and bad for me,” he said. “We lost really bad one time and Kelvin Bryant had a really good run on me. In the other game, I had 17 tackles and an interception and broke up a bunch of passes. I got player of the week one game with them. The FSU game… all of those games were pretty good. The first game was a blow out and they really kicked our butts but we did score a TD on them and it was 100-yard return on them.”

Harris’ fondest memories however were with his teammates on the practice field. Like this anecdote:

“We got shirts if you had a really good hit, and we all started seeing who could hit the hardest,” he said. “I remember the first and only spring football season going into my senior year. It was always competition between the offense and defense and all of the receivers were always talking smack to all of the defensive backs. Every year I was there I never heard it because I was not in spring practice. So when I did come, they were talking smack again, saying things like, “Oh the All-America is here… we’re going to beat you the same we do your boys.

“It was Henry Williams, Stefon Adams, Damon Pope, all of them were talking. So, I told them one by one, ‘I’m going to knock you guys out.’ And one by one, I knocked each one of them out. I thought that was very funny.”

And there were other great memories.

“All the traveling we did as a team, going down to the Florida games, the big rain game in Southern Mississippi,” he recalled. “I think being at Ficklen Stadium and seeing all that purple and gold there, particularly when we were doing well, was always great.”

Like most competitors, the mistakes and the lowlights tend to burn brightest in their memories and with Harris, it is no different.

“It was probably the worst thing I thought could happen (not getting the bowl bid in 1983),” he said. “We wouldn’t have even guessed that we weren’t going to a bowl game. We lost three games. We lost to the national champions by five points in a game where we had them beat. Every single game you can go back and say that we could have and maybe should have won… I mean every single game! And then, to not get anything and watch a 6-5 Carolina team go. It just shows you how it is even now with the BCS — the best teams don’t always get to go. That is probably why there are more bowl games, because there were more teams that deserved to go besides us.

“The only consolation was that I got to go to a few all-star games — Hula Bowl, Blue Gray — but it wasn’t the same as a bowl game. You never really got a chance to say good-bye.”

On to the National Football League

From the moment Harris stepped on the gridiron at East Carolina, he appeared destined to be on of those players who would be a lock for the NFL. He was so physically dominant and so fast on the field, it just was a forgone conclusion he would play on Sundays. So, when he wrapped up the 1983 season, it was to no one’s surprise that teams came around for him. One of the teams from the Big Apple made the call in the 5th round, for the 115th selection overall.

“I knew they were interested, but you don’t ever really know to what degree unless you are up for the Heisman Trophy or something,” he said. “I worked out with teams at the school as well as at the NFL Combines. The team that drafted me was the New York Giants and I didn’t even remember talking to them, which I thought was kind of weird. There are a lot of politics in the NFL too. It shouldn’t be that way. You get paid to do it, so it should be the best people who get on the field. It was nice to be able to play in the NFL and get an opportunity. It was a dream come true.

Photo by Charles "Choo" Justice

“I wasn’t really too psyched about the team that drafted me, though. I think that Kansas City was more interested in me and if I had to pick a team, I would have picked the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Oakland Raiders. Those were my type of team and fit my style of play. Of course in the NFL, they try to pick the best athlete and mold them into the player they want them to be. But I couldn’t do it. I was a type of player – big, strong, fast and I like to range and sit back 10 to 12 yards off the ball and cover from sideline to sideline.”

When then-coach Bill Parcells drafted Harris, the thought was that the Giants could convert him to strong safety. It didn’t work out.

“... I was put in a different type of position that wasn’t conducive to my abilities,” Harris explained. “My career didn’t go the way I wanted, obviously. Coach Parcells was the coach and I was the first defensive back they picked, which made me feel good. But they already had a free safety who was drafted a year or two ahead of me. They wanted to put me in the strong safety position, which was uncomfortable for me because I couldn’t see the whole field. I was used to having more freedom and being able to break on the ball.”

Still, he had hoped to make it work, but that initial season — even before he could overcome the discomfort with the position change — he got injured.

“My first year I was running back a ball against the Steelers and someone missed a block and I got a helmet on my knee, so I had to get a scope my first year,” he said. “So I was on IR the first year. Coming back the second year and the knee was okay and I still had speed, but was in the same position and it just didn’t work out with that team. As I said before, the NFL was kind of like, if they want to blackball you, they will blackball you. Later I found out that (blackballing) was what was going on with me. I never really drank, never smoked, never did drugs, never hung out with crazy people. I pretty much stayed to myself. I always had a lot of girlfriends and one day a coach came up to me and said, ‘Harris, I see you got that really nice car and all these girls around you, what are you, a pimp or something?’ I’m like, ‘I have no bills and I’m 22 years old. You gave me all this money, what else am I going to buy?’

“I bought a house and a car… the two things people do,” he said. “I didn’t enjoy my stay in New York and I was happy to get on out and from that point on it was sour grapes. I couldn’t get on with anyone long term and then did a thing during the strike year with the Vikings. Then in 1988, everything was going well for me up in Denver and that’s when I tore my Achilles tendon and that was pretty much it. I knew my lateral movement was going to be shot. I would have been better off breaking my ankle, but it was gone and to this day I can pop it and feel the weather, that type of stuff. I can still run straight ahead pretty fast, but the lateral movement was not good enough to play at that level any longer.”

Denver represented Harris’s one real shot, unencumbered by politics, and it almost didn’t happen.

“After (the strike season), I came back home to Virginia and then I got married in 1987,” Harris said. “George Rogers and I became good friends and worked out together and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you playing, you are killing me out here?’ Now, this was the Heisman Trophy winner from 1980-something. He is who actually told me that he had heard I was blackballed by the League.

“I did think I was getting a fair shake in Denver. I have never seen where a coach and the quarterback did not get along like that. It just blew me away. (Dan) Reeves had a golf cart he would drive on the field, so (John) Elway demanded a golf cart. It was just is crazy. I enjoyed the conditioning part of going there. They had these sprints we would do. Like 10 forties, you had to run for these guys with like 20 seconds rest between each one and they had to add up to a certain percentage of your fastest time. It really showed if you were in shape or not, and in Denver you really have to pay for your oxygen up there. Everything was coming together, I was breaking real well and I was the fastest defensive back that they had. Then one fluke play — while I was making an interception at that. I even had my ankle taped and it ripped through all of the tape and I knew. It wasn’t pretty. I knew it was over.”

But, to have had a fair shot was worth it to Harris.

“I thought Denver was real fair,” he said. “I remember I would go up to Tony Dorsett’s room and just talk. At that time his girlfriend had just died and then he got married and his wife had taken him for a whole lot of money. He was obviously at the tail end of his career and just trying to get on, but it was really interesting just seeing how guys were. All those conversations stay with you even if you don’t see them very often. I ran into a couple of guys at the NFL Kickoff last year in 2003 in Washington and it was like you had seen them every day of your life. Now that I am a member of the NFLPA as a retired player, you get to contact people. These are how guys back away from the limelight and become regular people. We discuss those things that are important, family, things that will carry you for your life.” 

Life after football

With the end of football, Harris went through a number of transitions en route to his current career, though he knew down deep he would end up in the restaurant business.

“I had worked in restaurants even before I retired,” he said. “After football, I took a year off and traveled a little. After that, I got into restaurant management. First I worked with a company down in South Carolina and then did another in Atlanta. I also did two years of all-male calendars, which is a funny thing. So then, I was ready to get out of my first marriage. She was a girl I had met at ECU — a Pure Gold dancer. Fortunately, I didn’t have any children with her.

“I met Robin in Atlanta. She comes from an athletic family. Robin’s little brother is the starting point guard for East Tennessee State and she was an athlete. I’ll tell you, my wife, when somebody calls me or notices me for my football, she’s like, ‘How do they know you, what did you ever do?’ She doesn’t even want to know.”

And his father-in-law was former Chicago Bears’ star defensive back Bennie McRae, so you can imagine the conversations they have when the subject is football.

For Harris, the second go-round with marriage was the charm and he indulges himself in his children.

“My daughter is more into sports than my son right now and she is definitely a daddy’s girl,” he said. “She runs and is very physical. She does ballet right now. My son is mostly into computer games at this moment. He is just 11 though. My friends are like, ‘Why don’t you have him playing any sports?’ But I want him to do what he wants to do because I don’t believe in pushing a kid into doing something. We have kids in the neighborhood that play organized sports that are his age and he just tosses them around. He is about 115 pounds and he can lift 115 pounds and he is quick.

“I think that it is definitely that my family has calmed me down. Seriously. I remember this article that ran while I was in college entitled ECU’s Campus Studs. I have all of this stuff from college in a book that someone put together for me. Robin was like, ‘Hey, what was this all about?’”

With a strong family, Harris has excelled in his second career.

“I have been training restaurants ever since I retired,” he said. “When I was in college even… actually, I got my first restaurant job my last year of high school when I worked at a country club in Virginia Beach. I liked it. I like to cook and I like to eat, honestly, so I got into it there. Then an alumnus from East Carolina, Gene Smith, who owned Zero Subshops in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, had another shop called Rockefellas Raw Bar, and that is when I really got into it. I enjoyed hanging out and meeting people and having a good time. It is never boring. Everyone likes to talk about something.

“When I got out of ball, it was a natural thing for me to do and it is something that I like to do. I had the choice to do it and I could have done something else if I wanted. I even worked in a health club for about a minute, but I really love the restaurant business. People like to go out to eat and I have been in the same career ever since.”

Harris drew on lessons learned on the Pirates football field in his new career.

“ECU helped me be tenacious and develop my drive coming from a school that wasn’t as well known as most,” he said. “I think everyone grows up and then something happens and you possess an ability and then you are known. You never know what is going to happen and then it happens to you and you stand out. I think how I am now and how I go to some of the companies who I work with and I am not known. And yet, after six to eight months, I am at the top of the food chain. I learned that at ECU knowing that you can start out small and then grow bigger. I really appreciate that from ECU and going back now and seeing how they have expanded and how the stadium looks, it makes me proud.”

Though Harris doesn’t get back to Greenville as much as he would like, when he does, it always feels like it was just yesterday that he was there.

“It is the funny thing about guys and sports. We don’t have to talk every day, every month, even every year,” he said. “Case in point was the reunion (2003) after 20 years. Some of the guys I hadn’t seen since that time, but it was like we never left ECU. I do talk to about 6 or 7 regularly and a few others when I get a number now and then. All the guys there, including the trainer, Choo (Charles Justice), it was like it was yesterday. Nobody changed much and we joked around like we were all still on the team. We relived moments and then going through the new facilities and it was funny that 20 years later, some of us still held records. Guess it shows that some of us were pretty good even compared to today.”

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Clint Harris Bio Box

Clint Harris

(Photo: Charles "Choo" Justice)





Years at ECU:


ECU Record Books:
  • INT Return Yards Career – 360
  • Avg. Yards Per INT Career – 22.5
  • INT Leader in 1980
    (2), 1981 (5), 1982 (5)


Defensive Back/No. 48


Chesapeake, VA

Currently Resides:

Jessup, MD


Regional Restaurant Management Training


Criminology, East Carolina University

Marital Status:

Married - Wife, Robin

  • Quentin (Deuce), 11

  • Kaicee, 7


“We knew that Earnest could run the ball, we knew that Terry would knock you out and we knew that Norwood Vann and (Damon) Pope could catch the ball. We knew that (Kevin) Ingram could throw the ball. We knew that if everyone did their jobs we would be ok. That is what happened in 1983. We knew if we were not THE strongest, then we were one of the top two strongest teams in the nation. We knew no one was going to break loose for 100 yards on us, because they couldn’t break loose on us. It worked out well. I was really happy that I went to ECU because of the good times and because it molded me to the man I eventually became.”


Former ECU star Clint Harris weighed in on a few Pirates-related items during his Pirate Time Machine interview:

Bonesville: Do you follow the Pirates football program?

Harris: I don’t get down there that much but I go online every week to see how they are doing. Sometimes, I’m like, ‘I have to get down there and show them how to do this or that.’

Bonesville: What are your thoughts on the new head coach, Skip Holtz?

Harris: I haven’t had a chance to learn a lot about him yet. I do know, that you have to have someone who bleeds the same blood you bleed. It is hard to have someone there that is not a true Pirate, meaning, they don’t have any roots there and can’t really tell the players how it used to be at ECU and how it can be again. It is going to be hard. I think you have to stick with something or you will always be in the rebuilding stage. You can’t rush to hire someone. You have to take the time to hire the right person, someone willing to grow with the program. I know just from knowing sports and business every time you change managers, there is a slight decline in the performance. Rarely do you get a team this bad who is 10-2 the next year after changing coaches.

Bonesville: What are your thoughts on the current BCS situation?

Harris: It is a mess. Teams are too good and too closely matched in abilities. It is tough to see them just pick a couple of teams from a group of undefeated teams. It’s like the saying, ‘On any given Sunday anyone can get beat.’ Look at the NFL. You will always have those teams out there  that are elite and winning 10, 11 games, but on any given Sunday, you can be beat. It needs to be decided on the field. There needs to be a playoff system and that is the only fair way for a team to win or lose it on the field and all teams should have an equal shot (at the playoff field).

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02/23/2007 02:14:56 PM

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