Harris was always in kicker's corner

Richard Harris (left) talks with former Blue Bombers kicker Alexis Serna after he missed a field...

Richard Harris (left) talks with former Blue Bombers kicker Alexis Serna after he missed a field goal against the Argonauts in October, 2008. Despite being the defensive line coach, Harris, who died suddenly Tuesday, took Serna under his wing. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters file photo)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Alexis Serna started to talk about Richard Harris, but he couldn’t get the words out.

“Sorry, it’s kind of tough for me to talk about right now,” the former Bombers placekicker said Tuesday from Corvallis, Ore., his voice breaking up.

It’s not often a placekicker and a defensive line coach become close, but that’s what happened during the 2008 season when Serna, a CFL rookie, was having trouble booting the ball through the uprights.

There is a memorable picture of Harris, who died suddenly on Tuesday, with his arm around Serna as they walked to the locker-room at half time of an Oct. 10, 2008, game against Toronto. The boos were raining down from the Canad Inns Stadium crowd because Serna had just missed a 36-yard field goal.

“He was a such a great guy,” Serna said. “Ever since that point in my first year when I started struggling and he kind of took me under his wing, I always looked forward to my daily hug that I was going to get from him.

“Every time I saw him I made sure to give him a big old hug. He was just like a big old teddy bear. He was a great man. He was the bright spot in the dark times, definitely.

“I know a lot of the other players are hurting right now, because he’s just a great guy. He’s one of those people that you’re very fortunate to meet and want to model yourself after. It’s just tough to know that he’s not here anymore.”

If everybody else on the planet was anti-Serna, and it sure felt that way some nights, Harris was always in his corner.

“It was very easy for all of us, or coaches, to maybe be on Alexis, but Richard was there as a pillar of strength for him,” former Bombers receivers coach Bob Dyce said. “It takes a unique individual to be able to recognize when that’s needed by someone and not to necessarily to come down on him.”

Harris even helped Serna with his kicking, telling him to forget about his previous attempts and just clear his head. It worked on that night in October 2008, because Serna’s 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter ended up being the winning points in a victory over the Argos.

“He just always had the right words to say at the right moment,” Serna said.

The Bombers released the California native last August, and one of the toughest parts for him was saying goodbye to Harris.

“My last moment (in Winnipeg) was in his office right after I got released,” Serna said. “I thought I was going to be fine, but once I saw him I broke down, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore and just knowing what he did for me.”


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