WINNIPEG - What will you miss most about Richard Harris?
It’s a question that made the rounds at Winnipeg Blue Bombers headquarters on Wednesday, the day after the affable, larger-than-life defensive line and assistant head coach died after suffering a massive heart attack.
“Just the way he treated people, the way he approached every day and the way he approached life,” said Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce. “He talked to you like a man and treated you with respect. Sometimes in this business, you don’t see that a lot. He was one of the best.”
“His burly smile and laugh,” added Blue Bombers centre Obby Khan, who had known Harris for more than a decade. “He wasn’t just there for the game, he was there for you as a human being and that’s what guys are going to miss. You don’t get that connection in sports these days.”
“I’m just going to miss being on the field with him, giving him a hug before the game,” Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice continued.
Of all the players and coaches queried, the answers varied slightly but one thing was perfectly clear — Harris was so much more than just a football coach.
Make no mistake, Harris was a darn good football coach but his passion for the game and his love for the players (and fans) were what made him such a likeable guy.
“Even if you’ve been here for one day or five years like me, he’s a guy who cares about everybody,” said Blue Bombers receiver Terrence Edwards. “He brings a spirit to this team that no other coach brought. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re Buck Pierce on down to a guy they just brought in at any position. He loved you and he’s going to pull you aside and he’s going to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. He was a guy you could go in his office and close the door and just talk to him. It was quiet out here today, because his mouth was louder than everybody’s, getting us in the right position, getting usready for a game. He’s going to be sorely missed. He was one of those guys that everybody loved.
“The guy who brought us energy won’t be here physically anymore, but we know he’ll be looking down on us and we’re going to go out there and represent him well.”
Blue Bombers defensive end Odell Willis flourished under the guidance of Harris, but the impact on his life stretched well beyond the gridiron.
“Oh man, words can’t describe the things he did for me and the love he showed me,” said Willis. “He meant a lot to us. He’s the true meaning of a player-coach. You can’t deny his desire for what he did and the people he did it for. He loved us more than he loved coaching. For somebody to put their life on the line to care about you more than their own profession, words can’t describe it. The things he taught me, as a D-lineman and a person off the field, you can’t get that anywhere else. I just love the guy.
“When things were down, he was always there to pick you up. You never heard anything negative from Coach Harris. He was always positive.”