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Oct. 20, 2003

By David Brauer, USC Assistant Sports Information Director

Dickie Harris came to the University of South Carolina as a star running back from Point Pleasant Beach High School in New Jersey. He proceeded to etch his name across the Gamecocks’ record book as a defensive back and kick return specialist before embarking on what turned out to be a Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League.

When Harris came to USC, he was moved to the defensive backfield and given a look as a kick returner.

“Being small, it made things tougher as a running back,” said Harris. “I got the opportunity to return kicks and took advantage of that opportunity. Running with the ball was something I enjoyed doing so I appreciated that role.”

Harris starred for the Gamecocks from 1969-71 and his collegiate career culminated with All-ACC honors and a first-team All-America selection by the American Football Coaches Association. In 1970, he returned a punt 97 yards for a touchdown against North Carolina and later that season Harris scored a pair of return touchdowns, one on a 96-yard kickoff and the other on a 94-yard interception, both coming against Georgia.

“The Georgia game certainly stands out in my mind because it was in Athens,” recalled Harris. “The opening game of my senior year against Georgia Tech in Columbia was memorable as well. I had a blocked punt that Johnny Nash picked up and returned for a touchdown to help us win the game.”

Following his college career, the New York Jets selected Harris in the fifth round of the 1971 NFL Draft. At the time he was also being courted by the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. He chose to play North of the border, a decision that made him a legend.

“The Jets had offered me a one-year contract, but the Alouettes had a long-standing interest in me,” said Harris. “The Alouettes really wanted me to play for them and offered me more money. When I visited Montreal, I thought the city was fantastic and had a very European feel. Those factors made my decision very easy.”

In just his second professional game, Harris made his mark. Against the Ottawa Rough Riders, the rookie intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a scoring drive and returned it the entire length of the field for an Alouette touchdown. The 118-yard interception return still stands as the longest in team history and the third longest in league history. His performance on that play also set a club record for interception return yardage in a game.

Harris played 10 seasons in Canada. Along the way he was part of two Grey Cup Champion teams, in 1974 and 1977, was a seven-time CFL All-Star selection, and was the named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1979. Harris’ name can be found near the top of many Alouette punt, kickoff and interception record listings.

While winding down his professional football career, Harris began pursuing a career as an investment broker in 1980.

Since that time, Harris has worked for CIBC Wood Gundy. He continued to live in Montreal until 1984 when he moved to Kelowna, B.C. in 1984 where he presently lives with his wife of 25 years, Elizabeth. The couple has three daughters ranging from age 18-23.

In 1998, Harris was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. The following year, Harris was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and is the only former USC football player enshrined with a professional honor.

The former Gamecock still follows his alma mater and keeps in touch with some of his former teammates.

“We have an e-mail system going,” said Harris of his former teammates at USC. “Sometimes I have to ask them how the team played since it can be difficult getting scores here.”

Harris enjoyed his time at South Carolina and has many fond memories of his years as a Gamecock.

“I built a lot of friendships during my four years at USC,” said Harris. “My experience there was great and the fans were the best that I experienced anywhere, including professionally. I had a good career and really appreciated them being behind me, win or lose.”